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2 New York Guardsmen Killed in Texas Helicopter Crash

Washington Report

Two New York Army National Guard aviators were killed Friday afternoon when their UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter crashed near Rio Grande City, Texas.

The National Guard Bureau identified the two Guardsmen as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski (pictured left in the above), 28, of Rensselaer, New York, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, of Schenectady, New York.

Both Guardsmen were members of Detachment 2, A Company of the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment. The unit, which specializes in flying missions in support of civilian agencies, is based at Army Aviation Flight Facility #3 at Albany International Airport in Latham, New York.

Border Patrol agent Chris Luna was also killed in the recent crash. A New York Army Guard aircraft crew chief was injured in the incident and remains hospitalized.

The soldiers were on federal active duty as part of Joint Task Force North, which supports the Customs and Border Protection operations on the nation's Southwest border.

The aircraft and its crew were "providing monitoring and detecting capabilities along that sector of the border," said Maj. Ryan Wierzbicki, a task force spokesperson.

The Lakota belonged to the District of Columbia Army Guard, according to the New York Guard.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

President Joe Biden; Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and his wife, Kelly; New York Gov. Kathy Hochul; and Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, all issued statements expressing their condolences.

"Kelly and I, and the National Guard family, send our deepest condolences to the families, loved ones, friends and colleagues of the two Army National Guard Soldiers and the U.S. Border Patrol officer killed in today's helicopter crash in Texas," Hokanson wrote on X on Friday.

"We mourn these heartbreaking deaths," he continued. "They are a tragic loss beyond words. We pray for the speedy recovery of a third Guard Soldier who was seriously injured. All of these people represent selfless service and the best of America."

"We are all shocked and devastated by the loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Grassia and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frankoski, while serving along the U.S. border in Texas," Shields said.

Frankoski enlisted in the New York Army Guard in October 2016. She was appointed as a warrant officer in 2019 and trained to become a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, according to the New York Guard.

She previously deployed to Kuwait from November 2018 to September 2019 with Detachment 5, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment, as a mission planner. The unit flies the Army’s C-12 transport aircraft.

Grassia enlisted in the New York Army Guard in 2013 as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintainer, New York officials said. He was appointed as a warrant officer in 2019 and trained as a UH-60 pilot.

He deployed to Kuwait with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, from September 2013 to September 2014.

He was also on state active duty from 2020 to 2022 as part of the New York Guard’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grassia was a New York State trooper in his civilian life, according to published reports.

— By John Goheen