ST. CLOUD — A Vergas, Minn. man was one of three members of the Minnesota National Guard who died in a helicopter crash shortly after takeoff south of St. Cloud on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, age 30, was killed in the accident, according to a release from the Minnesota National Guard.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr. and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, both 28, were also killed, according to the release.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued a statement Saturday morning:
"On behalf of all Minnesotans, Gwen and I offer our deepest sympathies to the families of Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles Nord, Chief Warrant Officer Two James Rogers, and Sergeant Kort Plantenberg. They paid the ultimate price in their service to Minnesota and to the United States of America. Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors."
Nord graduated from Perham High School in 2007, according to his 2012 newspaper engagement announcements. He graduated in 2011 from Minnesota State Community and Technical College Moorhead with a degree in construction electricity.
Nord is survived by his wife, Kaley Nord, a medical lab technician at Perham Health. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the couple have a 2-year-old daughter and another baby on the way.
“By all accounts, Mr. Nord took exceptional pride in serving the people of our state and nation and his loss is a tragic reminder of the risks our men and women of the armed forces take every day to protect us, whether it’s overseas or right here at home,” State Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said in a statement released Saturday morning. “Our hearts and prayers are with Mr. Nord and his two fellow guardsmen who also perished in Thursday’s crash, and with the friends and families of all three soldiers during this time of mourning.”
All three soldiers were assigned to Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, based in St. Cloud, according to the National Guard release. The unit returned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in May, where they conducted medical evacuations in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. All three soldiers deployed on this mission, according to the release.
On Thursday, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lost contact with the Guard shortly after its 2 p.m. takeoff from the Army Aviation Support Facility at the St. Cloud airport. It crashed southwest of the city near Marty, Minn., approximately 15 minutes later, according to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.
Local law enforcement agencies as well as the Minnesota State Patrol and St. Paul Fire Department aided in the search for the downed copter after the Sheriff's Office received word of the crash from the Guard. The deaths of all three crew members aboard the craft were confirmed by Gov. Tim Walz at a news conference in Kimball late Thursday.
The Guard said the helicopter had been taking part in what it described as a "maintenance test flight." It declined on Friday to say how frequently such flights are conducted.
More information about the crash and the victims is expected to be released at a news conference Saturday afternoon in St. Cloud.
Condolences and tributes have been pouring in from around the state:
"It is with great sadness Perham Health shares the news that Charles Nord was one of three Minnesota Army National Guard members that died in a maintenance test flight Dec. 5. Charles was the husband of Perham Health employee Kaley Nord, who works as a medical lab technician," Sue Von Ruden, Community Relations Director at Perham Health, wrote in a statement to the Perham Focus. "Our prayers are with the Nord family as well as the other families involved in this tragedy."
A Guard spokesman confirmed on Friday that the Safety Investigation Team of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center in Fort Rucker, Ala., is investigating the crash. The Stearns County Sheriff's Office said it will assist in the effort.
Walz on Friday, Dec. 6, ordered government offices throughout the state to lower their U.S. and Minnesota flags to half-staff in mourning. Government office flags are to remain at half-staff until Monday, Dec. 9, at 2:05 p.m., the approximate time of the crash.