SEABROOK, Texas – Officials have recovered the bodies of both servicemen who died during a helicopter-training mission in Seabrook earlier this week.
The two men, according to officials, include Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dustin Lee Mortenson, 32, of League City, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucas Maurice Lowe, 33, of Hardin, Texas.
Officials said Mortenson worked as an aviation-material officer and Lowe was an aircraft-maintenance officer.
“He was our hero, and we’re very proud of him," a member of Lowe's family told KPRC 2.
Both men were killed Wednesday afternoon, after the Apache helicopter they were in came crashing down into the water near the Bayport Cruise Terminal.
Crews spent all day Thursday trying to recover parts of the wreckage. As of Thursday evening, they were still searching for one of the bodies.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with their family," said Chief Warrant Officer Glen Webb.
One witness told Channel 2 he saw a cloud of black smoke in the air before the helicopter crashed.
An Army military investigative team is headed to the scene from Fort Rucker in Alabama, officials said.
The team will work to identify the cause of the crash. Crews have already located the helicopter’s black box.
They are also hoping surveillance video from any nearby cameras might have captured the crash.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon Texas Air National Guard members told the media they were still in shock about the crash.
They said both soldiers were experienced and qualified veterans who had flown the AH 64 Apache helicopter for many years. They also said the Apache helicopter has an outstanding safety record and is one of the military’s toughest attack helicopters.
Officials could not say whether there were any mechanical issues with the aircraft.
"Since we do not know the cause of the accident, we can't speculate on anything like that," said Master Sgt. Sean Cowher. "All we know is our pilots are highly trained, highly qualified veterans that have been flying this aircraft for many years."
The Texas Army National Guard released the following statement:
"It is with our deepest regrets that we announce both service members on board the aircraft are deceased.
Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with their families."
Both soldiers were part of the 149th Attack Helicopter Battalion.
It is based out of Ellington Field and flies frequently over Galveston Bay.
Grief counselors are meeting with fellow soldiers and families from the 149th.
A Texas Air National Guard spokesperson said it is a very close-knit group.
Authorities are responding to reports of a military aircraft in the waters off of El Jardin Beach on Monday afternoon in Seabrook. The U.S. Coast Guard confirms the aircraft crashed, after taking off from Ellington Field. The crash was reported after 3 p.m. near the Bayport Cruise Terminal.Posted by KPRC2 Brandon Walker on Wednesday, December 28, 2016