Antioch soldier among missing after Black Hawk goes down in Hawaii

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island (WPB 1349) scan the waters off Oahu Aug. 18, 2017, for any sign of five missing aviators from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The aviators went missing the night of Aug. 15 during a training evolution. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Barbers Point/Released)

HAWAII (KHON/WKRN) – After nearly a week, authorities made the decision on Monday, Aug. 21, to suspend the active search for five soldiers involved in a Black Hawk helicopter crash off Kaena Point.

The search was officially suspended at 12 p.m.

“The search-and-rescue was suspended only after careful consideration of all the available information,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commanding general, 25th Infantry Division. “It is a difficult decision for all of us, and for the families most of all. I know that all the responders helping in this rescue effort join me and the rest of this division in offering the families of the missing soldiers our deepest condolences and sympathies. They have been and will constantly remain in our thoughts and prayers during this trying time.”

The soldiers were identified as:

  • Sgt. Michael L. Nelson, 30, of Antioch, Tenn.
    Nelson was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with three loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 3, the NATO Medal, the Aviator Badge and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. He deployed twice to Afghanistan.

Senator Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in a statement, “An Antioch, TN hero has been named among those lost in a helicopter crash during training. Our hearts & prayers are extended to the family of Sgt. Michael Nelson with honor paid to one willing to lay down his life for his country.”

The Davidson County Veterans Court Foundation said in a statement it “extends our best wishes to the family of Antioch’s Sgt. Michael Nelson, missing in the training crash of his Blackhawk Helicopter in Hawaii.”

  • Staff Sgt. Abigail R. Milam, 33, of Jenkins, Ky.
    Milam was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Her awards and decorations include Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with two loops, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with award numeral 2, Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Aviator Badge.
  • 1st Lt. Kathryn M. Bailey, 26, of Hope Mills, N.C.
    Bailey was an aviation officer assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Her decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Army Aviator Badge.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian M. Woeber, 41, of Decatur, Ala.
    Woeber was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 4, the NATO Medal, the Multinational Forces and Observer Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Senior Army Aviator Badge. His deployments include Afghanistan and Egypt.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen T. Cantrell, 32, of Wichita Falls, Texas
    Cantrell was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 3, the NATO Medal, the Army Aviator Badge and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. He deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq.

On the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 15, two UH-60s from the 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade were taking part in a routine training mission when one helicopter lost radio and visual contact with the other.

Search-and-rescue efforts were initially focused around a debris field roughly five miles off Kaena Point and expanded as far as 160 miles offshore, beyond Kauai and Niihau, due to the currents and swells in the area.

While crash debris and even helmets were recovered, the two pilots and three crew members on board were never found.

“Looking at available information and the Coast Guard’s resident knowledge having conducted these searches before, it was determined that active search-and-rescue operations would no longer likely be able to locate the crew in the manner of which we were searching,” said Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, 25th Infantry Division.

The joint operation now shifts from rescue to recovery and salvage, as crews continue to collect pieces of the wreckage in an effort to determine what caused the crash.

“We will work with our Navy and our Army partners to do everything poss to understand the circumstances of this terrible situation and to try to bring our soldiers home to their families,” Cavoli said.

On-scene assets searched a total cumulative area of more than 72,575 sq. nautical miles (96,110 sq. statute miles) in more than 132 separate searches.

Debris from the crash may still be floating in the water or possibly be found onshore. Debris from the crash is considered hazardous and should only be recovered by recovery teams with the proper training and personal protective equipment. The debris poses potential risk and could cause serious bodily harm due to sharp edges.

Those who see or encounter debris consistent with this type of aircraft along the north and west side of Oahu are asked to report it to responders by calling the 25th Combat Infantry Brigade Staff Duty Officer at 808-656-1080.

A safety zone remains in effect extending out in a five nautical mile (5.75 statute miles) radius from the point 21-27.919N 158-21.547W, geographically located roughly two miles northwest of Ka’ena Point, established by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port Wednesday. No vessels or persons are authorized to enter this zone without prior approval.