National Guard releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Mendon helicopter crash

Updated: January 22, 2021 07:30 PM
Created: January 22, 2021 09:09 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in a helicopter crash earlier this week in Mendon.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch of Honeoye Falls, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda of Rochester, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial also of Rochester died in the crash. 

Koch, 39, was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard. He was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012-13 and served in Iraq in 2008-09. Koch served as part of Operation Noble Eagle, the National Guard security mission in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in 2004. 

Koch was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, as well as the CH-47 Chinook. He had 2,350 flying hours, according to the National Guard. He also was a civilian pilot for the New York State Police. State police said he is survived by his wife and four children.

According to county officials, Koch grew up in Livingston County and went to school in York. He also was a 2010 graduate from SUNY Brockport. 

"The thoughts of the entire SUNY Brockport community are with the family of Chief Warrant Officer Christian Koch ’10 as well as the loved ones of the other soldiers who were killed in this tragedy," college officials said in a statement. "We are proud of, and grateful for, Chief Warrant Officer Koch’s service to our country. The SUNY Brockport flag has been lowered to half-staff in his memory."

Skoda, 54, was a 35-year veteran of the Army and the New York Army National Guard. He served in the Army from 1985 to 1987 and joined the National Guard 1987. He was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and was deployed there in 2013 and 2019.

Skoda was an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and an instrument flight instructor and a UH-60 maintenance test pilot. He had almost 5,000 flying hours, according to the National Guard.

Prial, 30, served in the Army after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2012. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 with the 82nd Airborne Division. He became a captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the Guard so he could continue to fly, officials said. 

Prial was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and had 670 flying hours, according to the National Guard. He was reportedly an Orange County native.

Their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down Wednesday night during a routine training mission in the area of West Bloomfield and Cheese Factory roads in Mendon. The bodies of three soldiers received a special procession as they were escorted from the scene to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office Thursday morning.

Neighbors near the crash site reported hearing a very low-flying helicopter and believe the soldiers may have made a heroic decision to avoid hitting nearby homes.

The United States Army has taken over the investigation and is on the scene of the crash Friday. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office said West Bloomfield Road between Cheese Factory Road and Boughton Hill Road will remain closed, except for homeowners, through Saturday. Investigators will reevaluate Sunday morning. 

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office asks anyone with leads or information concerning the crash to call them at (585) 753-4175.

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