NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Four members of the New York Air National Guard were killed when a military helicopter crashed Thursday in Western Iraq.
Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, Capt. Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs and Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe were assigned to 106th Rescue Wing and stationed at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.
“This is where we live and serve, and our hearts are broken,” Captain Michael O’Hagan said late Saturday night.
The Air Force helicopter was used for combat search and rescue and was traveling from one area to another when it went down Thursday afternoon near Qaim in Anbar Province, killing seven people. The Pentagon said the crash is under investigation and does not appear to be the result of enemy activity.
Raguso and Zanetis also served as members of the FDNY.
“Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service – as New York City Firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Friday. “The hearts and prayers of the entire Department are with their loved ones and with the families of their five fellow service members who lost their lives defending our country.”
“They are truly two of New York City’s bravest – running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, loved ones, and fellow service members and FDNY members.”
The fire commissioner spoke about their sacrifice and bravery again Saturday at the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“What they do is beyond dangerous – going into dangerous situations to bring out wounded people and downed pilots,” Nigro said. “They did rescue work here in the United States during the hurricanes just last year.”
He joined the FDNY in 2005 and was also a volunteer firefighter in Commack, where he lived with his wife, Carmella, and two young daughters.
“I was with the family last night and this morning. As you can imagine, they’re devastated. They can’t put it to words how they feel. It’s numbing,” Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Pat Fazio said. “It’s numbing to us here in the fire department as his fire department family on the volunteer level.”
Raguso died the day after his 39th birthday.
“He told his family this was going to be his last mission. He went over there hoping to come home. Unfortunately, he’s not coming home,” Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Steven Fontana said.
Zanetis previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He joined the FDNY in 2004 and was promoted to fire marshal in 2013.
The 37-year-old from Long Island City was an avid athlete and took a leave of absence from the FDNY to attend law school. He recently joined the law firm of Debevoise & Plimton.
Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs was a fulltime military member who previously deployed to Afghanistan, Texas and the Caribbean for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The 30-year-old from Port Jefferson Station was the father of two young children.
Capt. Andreas O’Keefe was a fulltime federal employee who previously deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Horn of African and Texas for Hurricane Harvey.
The 37-year-old was from Center Moriches.
“You can’t help but be crushed thinking about their families and all those that love them, and I think it’s a state of shock in a big way,” O’Hagan said.
Raguso, Briggs and O’Keefe were all from Suffolk County.
“I am heartbroken to learn of reports that seven service members lost their lives last night in a tragic helicopter crash in Iraq. At least one of these heroes served in the New York Air National Guard, 106th Rescue Wing in Suffolk County. The service members in this unit selflessly deploy around the world to provide combat search and rescue coverage for United States and allied forces,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday. “This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifices our heroes in uniform face every day. My sincere condolences are with the family members and I ask that all New Yorkers keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
President Donald Trump offered his thoughts and prayers Friday on Twitter.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday. Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten,” he tweeted.