HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WKRN) — The Tennessee National Guard is mourning the loss of two of their own.
At approximately 3 p.m. Wednesday, a Tennessee National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training flight near Huntsville, Alabama.
Two crewmembers onboard were killed in the crash. There were no survivors.
The Guardsmen have since been identified as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Wadham of Joelton, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danny Randolph of Murfreesboro.
Wadham had 15 years of service, while Randolph had 13 years of service. The soldiers were assigned to A Company, 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion, from Nashville’s Berry Field Air National Guard Base.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of two Tennessee National Guardsmen, and our prayers are with their families during this heartbreaking tragedy,” said Brig. Gen. Warner Ross, Tennessee’s Adjutant General. “We ask Tennesseans to join us in supporting their families during this time of unthinkable grief.”
No civilians were injured as a result of the crash.
A nearby home surveillance camera captured the crash on video. It shows the helicopter in the distance falling from the sky before a black plume of smoke.
Authorities say the Tennessee National Guard Black Hawk was approaching the Huntsville Executive Airport when it “rapidly descended and impacted the ground.”
The Madison County Sheriff’s Department in Alabama initially responded to the crash site and reported the deaths of the crewmembers.
Davy Hunt, who witnessed the crash and called 911, spoke with News 2 Wednesday night.
“When it was coming down you could hear the engine screaming on the helicopter, it’s almost like the propellers or the blades on the helicopter weren’t spinning as fast as you think they would. The smell was in a matter of seconds, it was almost breathtaking,” Hunt said. “The first responders and police were there within I’d say probably 10 to 15 seconds. In my opinion, those guys are heroes for what they did regardless of the circumstances.”
He called the Guardsmen heroes because the helicopter was falling over a nearby subdivision, but it appeared they were able to navigate it to a highway where there were no cars or people.
Hunt also called the crash “one of the most terrifying things” he has ever seen.
There is still no word on exactly what led up to the crash, but News 2 spoke with an expert who believes he has an idea of what happened, based on the surveillance video of the incident.
“When I first saw it, it looked like some sort of failure, and then all of a sudden it started going straight down,” said aviation expert Larry Williams. “It had one little rotation, and then it went almost 90 degrees straight down, which means there’s no lift being created by the main rotor.”
Williams is a retired aviation safety inspector for the FAA and is currently an aviation safety consultant. He says the tail rotor wasn’t keeping the helicopter straight.
With so many unknowns, Williams thinks the investigation will play out like this.
“Helicopters probably don’t have a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, so what they’ll do is just basically try to… investigate the accident and try to see what, if any, failures of any components,” Williams said. “I would basically look at the main rotor first and of course the tail rotor.”
Federal and state authorities are continuing to investigate.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee took to Twitter Wednesday night to send his condolences to those impacted by the tragedy, saying, “Maria & I are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of two Tennessee National Guard members. Please join us in lifting their families up in prayer & support during this time of unspeakable grief.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey responded to Lee’s tweet, saying, “Governor Lee, Alabamians will continue to uplift in prayer the families affected by this heartbreaking tragedy. The Guardsmen who lost their lives today will be remembered as heroes. The people of Alabama stand with our neighbors in Tennessee.”
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.