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Army Identifies Soldiers Killed in Crash

June 3, 2006

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ The Army released the identities Saturday of four special operations soldiers killed when their helicopter crashed in a field in southwest Georgia.

The soldiers were identified as Sgt. Christopher M. Erberich, 25, of Oceanside, Calif.; Sgt. Michael D. Hall, 30, of Little Rock, Ark.; Sgt. Rhonald E. Meeks, 28, of Weatherford, Texas; and Chief Warrant Officer Michael L. Wright, 41, of Indiana.

The soldiers died in rural Colquitt County when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed and broke apart Thursday morning during a routine training flight.

The helicopter clipped a wire on a television transmission tower, officials said shortly after the accident. The Army is investigating.

A fifth crew member survived the crash with minimal injuries. The Army did not release his name.

The victims were members of the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, an elite unit known as the Night Stalkers that uses MH-47 Chinooks to fly special forces commandos behind enemy lines under cover of night. The battalion is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

Wright, the pilot, had served in the Army since 1989 and had deployed four times to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.

``He loved what he was doing; he knew the risks, and he was proud to be a soldier fighting so others wouldn’t have to,″ Wright’s wife, Judy Wright, and other family members said in a statement provided by the Army.

Erberich, a helicopter repairman and flight engineer, served seven combat deployments _ six in Iraq and one in Afghanistan _ in his five years with the Army.

Hall, an aircraft structural repairman, enlisted in the Army in 2000 and had deployed twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan.

Meeks served three combat deployments to Afghanistan since enlisting in 2002. He had been a helicopter repairman and flight engineer.

The airfield planned a memorial service Tuesday.

The helicopter crashed about 170 miles west of the base.

Update hourly