Memorial dedicated in memory of three National Guard members killed in Mendon

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MENDON, N.Y. – Christian Koch, Daniel Prial, and Steve Skoda lost their lives in this town when the helicopter they were in crashed during a training exercise.

On Sunday, a memorial was dedicated in memory of the three National Guard members in Semmel Road Park.

“It’s appropriate that this memorial is located at a park where families can gather and enjoy their time together,” said retired 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade Commander Michael Charnley, who knew Skoda.

“I had worked with Steve for 20 years so I came to support him and Christian and Dan. Also, they asked me to speak on their behalf,” he said.

The memorial’s strategic placement at the park, steps away from a nearby spray park and soccer field, is by design.

Mendon Town Supervisor Tom Dubois said that the location gives parents and kids an opportunity to learn about the servicemembers’ story and the ultimate sacrifice they gave to their country.

“It’s appropriate that this memorial is located at a park where families can gather and enjoy their time together. Steve was always family oriented. and particularly devoted to his nieces and nephews,” Dubois said.

Koch lived in Honeoye Falls. A stretch of New York State Route 64 was renamed Christian Koch Memorial Highway.

The National Guard members died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in January 2021 during a training exercise. It landed nose-down in a field off West Bloomfield Road.

Steve Skoda, 54 of Rochester, served in the Army for 35 years and was an experienced flight instructor. Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, was an Army captain who graduated from West Point Academy. Christian Koch, 39 of Honeoye Falls, served the National Guard for 20 years and was a pilot with the New York State Police aviation unit.

The New York Army National Guard said the cause of the crash was crew error while practicing a maneuver. A federal report released in April of 2023 said better access to flight simulators can help to prevent similar crashes.

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