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Schumer wants Pentagon to press for new military technology for aircrews

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media on April 30 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Getty Images/Pete Marovich

Saying a March 2018 helicopter crash in Iraq that killed four members of a Long Island-based National Guard rescue team could have been avoided, Sen. Chuck Schumer has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to press the Pentagon to ensure that military aerial rescue teams “are properly equipped to complete their missions safely and effectively.”

“The tragic Iraq crash of ‘Jolly 51’ concerns me and a number of my colleagues,  who believe insufficient progress has been made in equipping our aircrews with the best available technologies,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The crash occurred as the seven-member crew was part of a mission to preposition equipment at a landing zone closer to a military operation. All died. Four of the dead were members of the 106th Rescue Wing, based in Westhampton Beach.

An Investigation Board report released in October said “pilot error” led to the crew to misinterpret navigation displays, overshoot the target, and descend over an unplanned location. The helicopter became entangled in a 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel cable strung horizontally between two 341-foot high towers and tumbled into the desert.

In a letter Wednesday to the committee’s chairman and ranking Democrat, Schumer asked that Congress require the head of the U.S. Special Forces Command to provide a briefing on what the military is doing to “evaluate and procure systems that enable aircrews to detect uncharted wires and obstacles.”

Members of the senator’s staff said Schumer was not aware of any existing equipment that could have prevented the crash, but wants the Pentagon to press for the development of such detection technology.

The fatalities from the 106th Rescue Wing were Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station; Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches; Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, 39, of Commack; and Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City.

Also killed were Capt. Mark Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Master Sgt. William Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida; and Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida.

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