Four members of the New York Air National Guard’s Westhampton Beach-based 106th Rescue Wing were among seven US service members killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Iraq, officials confirmed Saturday.
They included Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs of Port Jefferson Station, 39-year-old Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso of Commack and Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City.
“This loss reminds us of the tremendous risks we take in serving our nation every day,” said Major General Anthony German, the Adjutant General of New York. “We honor their service, their professionalism, and their sacrifice as we mourn their loss.”
The airmen died when the HH-60 Pave Hawk—a search and rescue helicopter that is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk—they were flying crashed near the city of Al-Qa’im, officials said. There is no evidence of enemy action involved in the crash and the incident is under investigation, according to the Department of Defense. The 106th Rescue Wing is based at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.
The New York City fire department said Raguso was a 13-year FDNY veteran of Division 13 in Queens and Zanetis was an FDNY fire marshal in Bureau of Fire Investigation’s Citywide South in Brooklyn with a decade on the job. Raguso was also a volunteer with the Commack Fire Department.
“They are truly two of New York City’s bravest – running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
All four had previsously served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and were assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 101st Rescue Squadron, which had helped rescue survivors of hurricane Harvey and Irma last year. They were operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led coalition operation to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“The service members in this unit selflessly deploy around the world to provide combat search and rescue coverage for United States and allied forces,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifices our heroes in uniform face every day. My sincere condolences are with the family members and I ask that all New Yorkers keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Also killed were Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, both of whom were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, as well as Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.