3 Killed in National Guard Helicopter Crash Near Mexican Border

Three people were killed and one was critically injured after a helicopter carrying National Guard members and a Border Patrol agent crashed in southern Texas on Friday while following people who were crossing the border with Mexico, officials said.

The helicopter, which crashed at 2:50 p.m., was conducting an operation near Rio Grande City, according to Joint Task Force North, an operation under the Defense Department that supports Customs and Border Protection with National Guard units.

Two of the dead were soldiers, and the third was a Border Patrol agent, Joint Task Force North said in a statement, adding that it would not share the names of the victims because their families had not been notified. The National Guard confirmed in a statement that its members on board were part of the Army National Guard.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The aircraft was a UH-72 Lakota, the statement said. That model has served as the U.S. Army’s light utility helicopter since 2006, according to Airbus, the manufacturer.

The helicopter was being operated by the National Guard in support of Customs and Border Protection’s mission to secure the southern border, Maj. Ryan Wierzbicki, a spokesman for Joint Task Force North, said in an interview.

Joint Task Force North provides the command and control for the National Guard units deployed to the border on federal orders, Major Wierzbicki said. The National Guard unit that crashed was unrelated to Operation Lone Star, the border program led by the state of Texas.

No one on the ground in the area where the helicopter crashed was injured, he added.

The helicopter was patrolling the border and following people who were crossing into the United States illegally when it crashed in an open field, said Judge Eloy Vera, the top local official in Starr County, where the crash took place. He said he was notified of the crash about 7:30 p.m. by the county sheriff’s office, which later provided more details to him.

Three of the people on board were men and one was a woman, Judge Vera said, adding that the Border Patrol agent had been stationed in Rio Grande City.

Emily Schmall contributed reporting.

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