St. Louis grad among six dead in copter crash
Black Hawk crashes kill at least 59 over nine years
Six soldiers killed, 11 injured in helicopter crash
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
WAHIAWA Wahiawa shop owner Ron Howland, from behind a barricade of broken television sets, said yesterday he had wondered when he heard about the military helicopter crash in Kahuku if he knew any of those who died.
"I thought about that this afternoon," after the shock of the news had receded a bit, said Howland, proprietor of Rons TV & VCR Sales & Repair Service at 408 California Ave.
Three out of every four customers bringing equipment into Howlands shop comes from Schofield Barracks, home of the Tropic Lightning 25th Infantry Division (Light), which lost six soldiers in the crash of two helicopters during a training exercise Monday night.
Howland himself came from Schofield after 14 years in the Army to set up his shop on California Avenue in 1965.
And like most Wahiawa residents, Howland has accepted the daily routine of Army choppers chugging overhead.
For him, and for other residents of the little town near the sprawling military base, Schofields soldiers are often family, or friends, or customers.
Next door at Seoul Food Korean Restaurant, cook Yong Kan also sympathized with the six who died, the families who survived and the 11 wounded. "I feel so sorry for them," she said.
"It was pretty shocking that it happened," Howland said. But it is also amazing that so few have died in such exercises over the years, among the thousands upon thousands of soldiers who have trained in the Kahuku hills, he said.
And the death toll pales in comparison with those killed in automobile accidents on highways and freeways near the base, he said.
"We have ambulances and fire trucks going by here five times a day," Howland said.
It was ambulances that startled waitress Sharry Hitch when she came home from work at Haleiwa Joes on Monday night.
She thought at first the cause was another automobile collision on Kamehameha Highway, and worried that her boyfriend might have been involved on his way home.
Then the air was filled with even more helicopters than before, she said.
At Schofield yesterday, the only outward sign of the disaster was a flag lowered to half-staff. The sign at Foote Gate said threatcon was normal, but warned of a computer virus. Soldiers holding a placard were advertising a fund-raising car wash nearby.
But behind closed doors, officers had the harrowing duty of calling the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and wives, daughters and sons of those who had died. When that was done, the names were released.
"We have notified our family members of this great tragedy," said Maj. Gen. James M. Dubik, commander of the division and of the U.S. Army in Hawaii.
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