Minnesota Guard: ‘Allow Families to Grieve on Their Own Timelines’
ST. CLOUD -- The leader of the Minnesota National Guard Saturday asked Minnesotans to allow the families of three Minnesota Guardsman killed in a military helicopter crash Thursday to "grieve on their own timelines."
Major General Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard led a news conference Saturday at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the St. Cloud Airport.
28-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr. of Winsted, 30-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord of Perham, and 28-year-old Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg of Avon were on board the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed. All three were members were members of the 2-211th General Aviation Support Battalion based in St. Cloud.
"The Nord, Rogers and Plantenberg families need time, space, and privacy to grieve and mourn their loved ones," Jensen stressed. "Their privacy is very important, and I will protect their privacy as a priority."
Rogers and Nord were pilots, although Jensen would not comment on who was piloting the helicopter when it crashed during a routine maintenance flight just after 2 p.m.
Sgt. Plantenberg was a crew member on that flight. He was 28 years old, an Albany Area High School graduate and lived in Avon. He recently returned from a 9-month deployment to Kuwait where he and his unit provided aerial medical evacuation support.
Major Sean Spencer served as Plantenberg's direct supervisor for the past five months. He says, when an operations specialist position became available on short notice, Plantenberg jumped at the chance to apply.
"Kort came in the day before and asked for study materials. Within a day, he went through all the manuals, all the regulations, and memorized them. Very impressive, smart young man."
Spencer says Plantenberg, a technician mechanic, was soon moving on to a warrant officer position and had goals of eventually attending flight school.
"He wanted to further himself," Spencer said. "Super intelligent, very goal-oriented, driven individual."
Plantenberg's family issued a statement on Saturday afternoon.
"Kort was everything to us," the statement reads. "A kind, loving son and brother, as well as an incredibly dedicated and loyal friend, neighbor, Correctional Officer and Guardsman. It's impossible to envision a life without him."
Jensen says the Minnesota Guard will be assisting investigators from the Army's Aviation Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The Fort Rucker Aviation Safety Center also investigated the most recent fatal accident involving the Minnesota Guard which also happened in Central Minnesota. Two Minnesota Army National Guard helicopters crashed near Camp Ripley in March 1993, killing five crew members and injuring two others.
Major General Jensen says all UH-60 Black Hawks are grounded in Minnesota during the initial investigation of Thursday's crash. He says it will give the Guard time to review procedures.
The helicopter crashed near Kimball. The wreckage will remain in place as investigators try to determine what caused the crash.
"Investigations of this nature do not have an assigned duration," Jensen said. "We will not speculate on an estimated completion date."
Jensen says, the Minnesota Guard's immediate priority is caring for family members and those in the fallen soldiers' unit.
"There's nothing I can say that can take away or lessen the pain. What I can tell you is that you are not alone in your grief."
WJON's Abby Faulkner, Sarah Mueller and Tim Lyon contributed to this story.