NY National Guard releases names of soldiers killed in helicopter crash

Jan 22, 2021

From left: Steven Skoda, Christian Koch and Daniel Prial.
Credit Provided

The New York National Guard has released the names of the soldiers killed in Wednesday’s crash of a Blackhawk UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter in Mendon.

Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial.

The crash happened early Wednesday evening, and at the time, people living in the area called 911 about reports of a low-flying aircraft that sounded like it was having engine problems. The helicopter crashed into an open field in Mendon.

Officials with the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs said an Army Safety Investigation team arrived Thursday from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, to begin analysis of the accident. Officials said the team will investigate the potential human, equipment and environmental factors that may have been involved in the accident.

Officials say that the aircraft and crew was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion. The unit trains to perform aeromedical evacuation and the crew had been conducting night vision goggle proficiency training in the local training area.

Skoda was a Rochester resident. He was a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Army and the New York Army National Guard. He was 54 years old and a veteran of the Afghanistan War; he deployed there in 2013 and 2019.

He is described as having been an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and an instrument flight instructor and a UH-60 maintenance test pilot. He had almost 5,000 flying hours.

He worked as a full-time National Guard technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport, as well as serving as a member of C Company of the 171st General Support Aviation Battalion.

Koch was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard.

He became a helicopter pilot in 2006, flying from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport. He was 39 years old and a resident of Honeoye Falls.

Koch was a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Koch was also a civilian pilot with the New York State Police Aviation Unit in Rochester. He was recently honored by the Red Cross for his role in the June 2020 rescue of an injured 11 year old boy in Wyoming County.

Prial was a 30-year-old Rochester resident who had served in the Army since 2012 after earning a commission at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 with the 82nd Airborne Division and served as an instructor pilot for students at Fort Rucker in Alabama, where the Army trains helicopter pilots.

He was working as a federal technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport.

A statement released Friday by the NY National Guard said in part:

"These Soldiers were a part of our National Guard family and we mourn their loss, alongside their family members and loved ones.

The New York National Guard will be there for these family members as they navigate these trying times. Our chaplains and casualty assistance officers will be with them whenever needed.

Our service members wish to extend their heartfelt thanks to the members of law enforcement, first responders, and the community at large for their support and sympathy during this trying time."