A New York Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter on a routine training mission crashed in a rural area south of Rochester on Wednesday evening, leaving three Guard members dead, the authorities said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the aircraft, a UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter, to crash. Sheriff Todd K. Baxter of Monroe County said at a news conference on Wednesday night that people had called 911 and reported seeing a helicopter flying very low and hearing sounds of a sputtering engine.
The National Guard said in a statement that the helicopter was part of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, and was assigned to C Company of the First Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion.
The National Guard said it was investigating and did not immediately answer further questions about the crash or the victims.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said the crash took place around 6:30 p.m. in a field near West Bloomfield Road in the town of Mendon, about 16 miles south of downtown Rochester. The sheriff’s office said only three people were onboard.
“This is a heavy, heavy burden upon all of us,” Sheriff Baxter said. “We lost three great Americans today in the service of our country.”
He said the Federal Aviation Administration would also investigate the crash.
Images posted on social media of the crash showed the wreckage in flames in an open field, as the authorities blocked traffic nearby.
Sheriff Baxter said that debris from the crash stretched for several hundred feet from the site.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement that he was “devastated” by the news of the crash and would direct that flags on all state buildings be lowered to half-staff on Thursday.
“National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honorable heroes who we will never forget,” he said.