2 from Nellis AFB die in Afghanistan helicopter crash

Published Thu, Jun 10, 2010 (4:41 p.m.)

Updated Thu, Jun 10, 2010 (5:56 p.m.)

Two Nellis Air Force Base airmen were killed and three were wounded in a helicopter crash Wednesday in southeastern Afghanistan.

They were deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and were responsible for casualty evacuation, authorities said. The five Nellis airmen were in an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter when it crashed. Two airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona also were killed.

The cause of the crash is under investigation and other details weren't available Thursday.

The Nellis airmen were identified as 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich., assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, and Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala., assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron.

Gentz was on his first deployment with more than 50 hours of combat time. Smith had seen numerous deployments in support of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Col. James McElhenney said in releasing a statement from Nellis.

Also killed were Tech. Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 31, of San Antonio, Texas, and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn., assigned to the 48th Rescue Squad at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Flores was on his eighth deployment as a pararescueman and had previously been stationed at Nellis. White served in the Air Force for almost four years and was on his first deployment.

The wounded airmen are assigned to the 66th RQS from Nellis Air Force Base. They are being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The extent of their injuries isn't known.

Officials won’t release the names of the wounded airmen because of the ongoing investigation.

The airmen were assigned to the to the 563rd Rescue Group, a separate unit of the 23rd Wing.

Nellis will hold a memorial service next week.

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