METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - A Metairie man who served in the Louisiana National Guard said he worked closely with one of the four Louisiana National Guardsmen killed in this week's Black Hawk crash in Florida.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Mark Henry said he knows three of the soldiers, but is only commenting on pilot David Strother, whose name has been published by newspapers near his hometown of Pineville.
Henry showed pictures of himself in fatigues in Iraq as well as Strother during the deployment. Henry said he flew on helicopters piloted by Strother during the Gulf War.
He said Strother was an experienced pilot and was his superior in rank. Henry was a "crew chief," which is basically the helicopter mechanic. He said mechanics always are on board the Black Hawk.
He remains shaken up by the accident that killed the soldiers as well as seven Camp Le Jeune Marines.
"Dave was really one of the ones who, like I said, was more personable, more approachable, and really fun guy to be around, you know. He always, he would always brighten up the room whenever he came in," Henry said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Henry said the Black Hawk is a very reliable war horse and that they trained for all kinds of weather conditions. He said when he first learned about the crash he was optimistic that all board had survived.
"That was really the hardest thing for me, not knowing. And you just hold out hope that everything is going to be all right - that the man just had a hard landing and everybody escaped without a scratch. And as time went on and they started saying that debris and wreckage had been washing up on the shore, well, hope begins to dwindle," Henry said.
He said he remains friends with members of the 1-244th.