Update: Friend talks about fallen Guardsman killed in helicopter crash

9:44 PM, Jul 11, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Helicpoter Crash

  • File picture of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Helicopter

Driving to Knoxville from Alabama, retired National Guardsman Randy Rivers remembers his friend Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cole.

"He's very professional, took his job very seriously, even at the same time, he would chill and be laid back and he could be that way too," Rivers said.

CW4 Cole and 1LT Thomas Joseph Williams, Jr. were on a routine military exercise Saturday over Campbell County when it crashed into power lines. Both guardsmen died, military officials said.

"We lost a couple of good aviators, and for me, also I lost a very good family friend that I always remember," Rivers added.

Both were on a OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter at the time. Currently, The Tennessee Army National Guard is the only state organization in the country that uses these helicopters.

"The active duty uses them extensively but because of the organization, Tennessee is the only unit that has Kiowa Warriors," said Tennessee National Guard Adjutant General Max Haston.

Rivers said he and Cole had extensive experience with that kind of aircraft in the past; both pilots taught training with the Kiowa Warrior.

"It can be flown with a single pilot or anytime the military does mission training, there's two pilots on board," Rivers said.

Brice Schweitzer remembered his friend 1st Lt. Thomas Williams, Jr. as an ambitious person.  The two men met at the University of Tennessee when they pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon together in 2003.

After getting his degree in economics in 2007, Williams joined the National Guard.  He served for three years.

Schweitzer, who knew Williams for almost ten years, said his friend was always willing to help others.  He said Williams started a real estate investment business that helped several Knoxville families get homes in the area.

"He was one of those guys who would just about do anything you needed him to do," Schweitzer said.  "He was a true American, he loved the military and he really loved to fly."

Another friend, Matt Fagiana, said Williams was a kind guy. 

"[He] always had a smile on his face and sincerity in his handshake," Fagiana said.  "He's the kind of friend you kept for life."

Now, as funeral services for both Knoxville guardsmen are being planned, Rivers mostly remembers his last flight as in the TN Army National Guard before his 2009 retirement; Cole was on that flight with him.

"I actually early in 2009... last flight in the Tennessee Army National Guard was with Dan in the cockpit," said Rivers. "We had a bunch of memorable flights together and that was one of them."

Previous Story: 2 National Guardsmen from Knoxville died in helicopter crash

The names of the two pilots killed in an Army National Guard helicopter crash on Saturday have been released.

According to Major General Max Haston, 1st Leutenent Thomas Joseph Williams, Jr. and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel Cole, both of Knoxville, died when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed in Campbell County. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

"The entire Tennessee National Guard is deeply saddened at the loss of Lt. Williams and Chief Warrant Officer Cole," said Haston.
"Our deepest sympathy goes out to their families and loved ones. Words cannot express the sorrow I personally feel for these Soldiers, their families and their fellow Soldiers who knew and served with them in peacetime and combat. Their loss is incalculable."

"It is a terrible tragedy whenever we lose a Soldier, but we can rest assured that these two outstanding pilots lost their lives doing something that they loved and believed in, preparing to defend the freedoms we all enjoy."

"I pledge our full support to the agencies charged with the responsibility of investigating the cause of this crash and appreciate their professionalism and support to our Soldiers and families."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued the following statement regarding the deaths:

"We as a state mourn with the families of 1st Lt. Thomas Joseph Williams, Jr. and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel Cole and our thoughts and prayers are with them. This is a somber reminder of how our troops face life threatening situations in training as well as in combat."

The Kiowa helicopter is the focus of a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families to two Tennessee army pilots killed in Iraq.

Captain Marcus Alford, Sr. of Knoxville and Billie Jean Grinder of Smyrna died in February 2010, when the Kiowa helicopter they were flying in suffered a system failure and crashed.

The suit claims there was negligence on the part of the companies that directly resulted in the crash.

Previous story

The Tennessee National Guard has confirmed that two pilots on board a OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Helicopter have died after a crash in Campbell County.

The crash happed around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

At the time of the accident the crew was conducting a routine training flight.

The names of the two killed are not being released until their families have been notified.

At this time the cause of the crash is not known, and officials are not speculating on the cause at this time.

Representatives from the Tennessee National Guard are on their way to the scene.   A board of officers will be appointed to investigate the cause of the accident.

According to the US Army website, the Kiowa Warrior is used for armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations.

Previous story

Officials from the Campbell County Sheriff's Department and the Caryville Fire Department tell 10News that some victims from the Tennessee Army National Guard helicopter crash have been transported to Knoxville.

Those officials say two helicopters, one from the Knox County Sheriff's Department and one from the military, took an unknown number of "bodies" from the scene.  Despite the use of the word "bodies," those officials are not sure if those victims are alive or dead.

We are still waiting for official word from the Tennessee Army National Guard about the crash and the condition of those on board.

Previous story

Campbell County officials say an Army National Guard helicopter crashed off of I-75 north near mile marker 141 around 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening.

Robert Angel of the Campbell County Sheriff's Department confirmed that the helicopter crashed in the woods near the  Royal Blue Recreation Area.

Military officials have not released any details.   A spokesperson for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says the governor is aware of the situation, and will release a statement when he has details from the military.

There is currently no access to the crash site.

The number of people involved in the crash is not yet known.

The Army National Guard is handling the rescue.

The helicopter crashed into some power lines, leaving many in Caryville, Jacksboro, and Lafollette withhout power.  LaFollette Utilities reported just over 5,000 customers were left without power at the time of the crash, but by 7:25 power had been restored to all customers.

 Stay with 10News and wbir.com for the latest on this developing story.


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