Two U.S. Army pilots were killed Wednesday afternoon during a routine training flight when their AH-64 Apache helicopter broke apart in mid-air over Galveston Bay in Texas, according to Reuters. The pilots were members of the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade at Ellington Field near Houston based on reports for KHOU-TV. At least one of the pilots was from the Houston area.
The Chron.com news outlet reported Thursday that Lucas Lowe was one of the two victims on board the helicopter. The outlet confirmed Lowe’s identity with his father-in-law, Olen Bush. The identity of the other victim has not been confirmed, and the Texas Army National Guard has not yet officially released the identity of either solider.
Witnesses told KHOU-TV the aircraft appeared to be flying unusually low then they heard a “pop” or small explosion. Black smoke appeared to pour from the aircraft as it spiraled down nose-first into the bay. Media outlets report that the helicopter remains submerged upside down in the bay with the wheels extending up, just above the water.
Local first responders and U.S. Coast Guard rescuers arrived soon after the crash happened, but determined that the pilots did not survive. Divers worked through the night to recover the victims. A helicopter blade that was still intact with the rotor and other debris from the aircraft was found along the shore Wednesday evening. Local police continue to stand guard until investigators finish processing the site.
Boeing, the helicopter’s manufacturer, claims the Apache is the most advanced multi-role combat helicopter in the world. It is used primarily by the U.S. Army, which began training with it more than 30 years ago and has accumulated more than 4.2 million flight hours. Boeing has recently increased sales of the Apache to other military forces worldwide.
Following its significant role in the first Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm, the Apache was highly criticized for its deficiencies and failures, according to Thomas K. Adams in his 2006 book, The Army After Next: The First Postindustrial Army.
Reuters reports that the crash occurred near the Houston Ship Channel, but did not affect navigation. The Houston Ship Channel links the busiest U.S. petrochemical port to the Gulf of Mexico.