3 National Guard soldiers killed in helicopter crash ID’d

Three soldiers killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash Thursday have been identified by the Minnesota National Guard.

The soldiers, who had been assigned to a unit in St. Cloud, Minnesota, have been identified as: Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30; and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28.

All three soldiers had returned from a nine-month deployment in the Middle East in May, a release from the Minnesota National Guard said.

A resident of Winsted, Minnesota, Rogers enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 2009 as a field artillery specialist. Nord, a resident of Perham, Minnesota, leaves behind his wife, Kaley, who is expecting the couple’s second child, and a 2-year-old daughter named Lydia. Plantenberg lived in Avon, Minnesota, and was a member of the Minnesota National Guard biathlon team, according to the Guard.

The helicopter crashed 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud, Gov. Tim Walz said at a news conference Thursday.

“They paid the ultimate price in service to Minnesota and to the United States of America,” said Walz, himself a National Guard veteran.

“The coming days will be dark and difficult. The state of Minnesota stands ready to assist the families of our fallen heroes.”

The crew was conducting a maintenance test flight just after 2 p.m. when they lost contact with air traffic controllers, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.

A mayday call was put out and, about 90 minutes after it went missing, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was found tangled in trees on a farm, WCCO reported.

CNN’s Chris Boyette, Jeanne Bonner and Madeline Holcombe contributed to this report.