LIers remember service members killed in helicopter crash
The Long Island service members who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq are being remembered as heroes both for their service and for touching their communities here at home.
U.S. officials say seven service members were killed when the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter went down in western Iraq Thursday near the Syrian border. The crash remains under investigation, but the Pentagon has said there is no evidence of any enemy activity involved in the crash.
Four of the men killed were from New York. They were members of the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.
They have been identified as Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, who was a married father of two; Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, of Commack, a flight engineer who had just celebrated his 39th birthday on the day before the crash; Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, a Queens resident who had lived in Hampton Bays for a time; and Capt. Andreas O'Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches.
O'Keeffe's neighbor, Center Moriches resident Robert Schaefer, tells News 12 that he was in shock after learning of the deadly crash. Schaefer says O'Keeffe was a friendly man who would shovel his elderly neighbor's driveway when it snowed.
"He was a nice guy. He was a gentleman. He helped my neighbor out quite a bit," Schaefer says.
Raguso was a father and a member of the FDNY who also served as a volunteer firefighter in Commack.
"From the top level of leadership down to the most junior airman, everyone is absolutely feeling the weight of this news," says Capt. Mihcael O'Hagan, of the 106th Rescue Wing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered that all flags in the state be flown at half-staff Monday in honor of the fallen guardsmen.
Two other men killed in the helicopter crash were serving in the Air Force Reserve and lived in Florida. The seventh man killed was from Colorado and was serving at an Air Force base in Georgia, according to officials.
Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.