PHOENIX - Five Army soldiers are dead after a helicopter crash during a routine training exercise overseas, and one of those soldiers was from Arizona.
The tragic crash happened Friday, Nov. 10 along the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was a training exercise that went horribly wrong.
27-year-old Sergeant Andrew Southard of Apache Junction was one of the five killed. He attended Cactus Canyon Junior High and Apache Junction High School.
His life touched many across the world.
"It was a complete shock," his friend Chance Schick said, holding back tears as he remembered the man whom he lovingly called Andy. "You won’t meet a more honest, hard-working man in this country."
The pair were part of a trio, quickly bonding a tight friendship while in basic training in 2015 at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
"He didn’t take life too seriously, that’s for sure. He always had his stuff in line. He definitely was a jokester. He was just caring. I think that’s the biggest thing. He was so humble about stuff. It was just easy to talk to him. He could relate to anything. He was from Arizona. I’m from Wisconsin. You could just talk to him like you’d known him for 20 years," Schick said.
The U.S. Department of Defense says it happened during a routine "refueling training mission" over the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Lebanon.
The group of five were crew members of an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it went down.
They were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38, of Clarksville, Tennessee, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California, Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire, and Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.
Schick says Southard leaves behind a wife, daughter and stepson.
"I just hope that their whole family knows that the relationship Southard had with everyone across the country and overseas, it’s a statement to who he was, and we’re all here for her and them and whatever they need," Schick said.
For now, the U.S. Army’s Combat Readiness Center is investigating the incident.