MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) — Those who knew them best are paying tribute to three Minnesota National Guard soldiers who were killed when their helicopter went down. The crash happened Thursday near Kimball, which is just west of St. Cloud.
The Guard says 30-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Charles Nord, 28-year-old Sergeant Kort Plantenberg and 28-year-old Chief Warrant Officer James Rogers were all on board.
Earlier this year their unit returned home from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East. Marielle Mohs spoke with their loved ones who say these men leave behind a lasting legacy.
30-year-old Charles Nord, 28-year-old Kort Plantenberg, and 28-year-old James Rogers — young lives, serving our state and country, cut short. Their battalion first sergeant Shawn Schmidt says their unit feels broken after this loss.
The three guardsmen were doing a routine maintenance flight out of the St. Cloud airport Thursday afternoon. Shortly after take off the pilots initiated a mayday call and contact was lost with the aircraft. 2 hours later, first responders found the downed helicopter on a farm near Kimball, all three guardsman on board were dead.
On Saturday, members of the Minnesota National Guard gathered at the same airport the guardsmen last flew out of on Thursday. At an afternoon press conference, some of the soldiers in their battalion shared memories, including Sgt. Nicholas Arrigoni, who was good friends with all three.
Which makes this grief run deep, but they know it’s these soldiers actual families who are hurting the most right now. As they slowly find strength to move forward, Arrigoni says this loss has change the way he will serve forever.
For now the Minnesota National Guard has grounded all flights until the initial safety investigation is complete.