3 dead in military helicopter crash were experienced pilots

The photos in this combo, released by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, show the three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in Mendon, NY, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. They are, from left: Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, age 54, from Rochester, NY; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, age 39, from Honeoye Falls, NY; and Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial, age 30, from Rochester, NY. (New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs via AP)
The photos in this combo, released by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, show the three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in Mendon, NY, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. They are, from left: Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, age 54, from Rochester, NY; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, age 39, from Honeoye Falls, NY; and Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial, age 30, from Rochester, NY. (New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs via AP)

MENDON, N.Y. – The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.

The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field near Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors.

The crew had been conducting night vision goggle proficiency training in the local training area, the National Guard said. The helicopter was based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport.

Witnesses who called 911 reported hearing an engine sputtering and said the helicopter was flying very low.

An Army Safety Investigation team arrived at the site Thursday from Fort Rucker in Alabama.

Skoda served in the Army from 1985 to 1987 and joined the National Guard 1987. He was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and was deployed there in 2013 and 2019.

He was a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and maintenance test pilot with nearly 5,000 flying hours and worked full time as a National Guard technician.