Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:59 a.m., Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Army pilot with Hawai'i ties killed in crash in Iraq

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

One of the pilots killed in the crash of an Apache helicopter gunship in Iraq yesterday has family in Hawai'i and lived here for several years, a relative said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ruel M. Garcia, 34, was one of two crew members killed in the crash north of Baghdad, said his grandfather, Nicolas R. Garcia, who lives in Waipi'o.

"I am crying," said a distraught Nicolas Garcia, 80. "When my daughter in California called me I was really crying because he was my first grandson from my oldest daughter. Oh my God, Oh my God. I can't control my breath."

Ruel Garcia, who was born in Manila in the Philippines, had lived with his grandparents in Hawai'i in the early 1990s. His sister, Eden, lives in Waipahu, Nicolas Garcia said.

"He was a good boy. He was very talented," the grandfather said.

Ruel Garcia was based in Texas and had gotten married several months ago before he went to Iraq on his second deployment, Nicolas Garcia said. The Army aviator's parents live in the Philippines.

Ruel Garcia bought a house in Texas and a one-acre lot.

"That was my advice to him — invest in a lot and land," his grandfather said.

Nicolas Garcia spoke to his grandson by phone before he left for Kuwait in the fall.

"He told me he's going back to Iraq to continue his obligation as an Army pilot and to protect the country and that's his obligation."

Ruel Garcia joined the Air Force first and later switched to the Army.

According to news reports, the Apache may have been shot down by a missile north of Taji. The helicopter gunship carries a pilot and copilot only.

It was the third crash of a U.S. helicopter in two weeks. Twelve U.S. service members and four civilians have been killed in the crashes. The Pentagon is looking into whether the spate of crashes reflects a shift in tactics by militants.

"Is there a pattern? Certainly, in recent weeks, three helicopters have gone down," said Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita. "Nothing has been ruled in or out in any of those three cases yet."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.