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Helicopter Crash Claims 2; Army Guard Orders Safety Stand Down

02-27-24 WR Helicopter Crash WEBSITE FINAL
02-27-24 WR Helicopter Crash WEBSITE FINAL
Washington Report

Two Mississippi Army National Guard aviators were killed when their AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed Friday afternoon near Booneville, Mississippi, during a routine training flight.

Officials identified the two Guardsmen as Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Andrew Zemek (pictured in the above left photo), 36, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott (pictured in the above right photo), 42.

The crash was the second one this month involving an Army Guard Apache helicopter.

On Feb. 12, two Utah Army Guard pilots were injured when their helicopter went down in West Jordan, Utah.

Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, the director of the Army Guard, has ordered an aviation safety stand down for all Army Guard helicopter units to review safety policies and procedures following the two recent crashes. The stand down went into effect Monday.

"We are a combat force with helicopters training or on mission worldwide every day," Jensen said in press release on Tuesday. "Safety is always at the top of our minds. We will stand down to ensure all of our crews are prepared as well as possible for whatever they’re asked to do."

Abbott and Zemek both served at an Army aviation support facility in Tupelo, Mississippi, according to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

Zemek was an AH-64D Apache standardization instructor pilot with A Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment.

Abbott served as a maintenance test pilot and was in D Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Lakota Medical Evacuation Unit.

"I wanted to extend my deepest condolences to the families and to the friends of our fallen soldiers," Reeves said at a press briefing on Saturday. "We will always remember these dedicated soldiers for their honorable service and we grieve with the families during this tragic time."

"Today is a devastating day for the Mississippi National Guard as we mourn the loss of two of our brave brothers in arms," Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the adjutant general of Mississippi, said in a statement on Sunday.

"This accident serves as a constant reminder of the selfless service, sacrifice and commitment that our brave service men and women face while performing in the line of duty," he added.

Boyles is also the chairman of the NGAUS board of directors. Zemek and Abbott were members of the association.

President Joe Biden released a statement about the fatal crash on Saturday.

"Our prayers are with their families, units, and the entire Mississippi National Guard at this incredibly difficult time," he said.

"These two Guardsmen embodied the very best of our nation — bound by honor and committed to service," Biden added. "We will continue to keep our solemn promise to care for their families, just as they were faithful to our nation."

Zemek, a native of Oxford, Mississippi, is survived by his wife of three years and their four children, state officials said.

Abbott, a combat veteran who served in Iraq, is a native of Fulton, Mississippi. He is survived by his wife of 18 years and their three children.

The helicopter accident in Mississippi is now under investigation.

"Our paramount concern at this time is to ensure proper casualty assistance is available to support the surviving family members through this difficult time," Boyles said. "Our hearts are truly broken at the loss of these two members of our family."

— By John Goheen