BOISE – The Dept. of Defense has confirmed that 33-year-old Army Sgt. Chris Workman from Rupert, Idaho was killed last Thursday during a helicopter rescue mission in Afghanistan.
Military sources say Workman and three other soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained when their Blackhawk helicopter crashed around 9:40 p.m. on April 19th. The soldiers were reportedly trying to evacuate a wounded Afghan police officer from a suicide bombing site in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The specific cause of the crash has not been determined. Heavy thunderstorms and poor visibility are suspected to be contributing factors.
According to the independent newspaper Stars and Stripes, which reported Workman's death on Monday, the crash is known as a "fallen angel" event where military members lose their lives trying to save a fellow fighter.
Stars and Stripes is widely known as a credible reporting agency with a history of partnering with the United States military.
On Sunday, the International Security Assistance Force’s press desk responded to a Stars and Stripes query by saying it was “considered very unlikely that the crash was the result of enemy activity.”
The newspaper also reports that Workman was a former auto glass technician who joined the Army late in life, eventually becoming a respected, Blackhawk helicopter door gunner.
Workman was also reportedly married, with a son.
Other soldiers killed in the crash include Chief Warrant Officer II Nicholas Johnson, 27, San Diego; Spc. Dean Shaffer, 23, Pekin, Ill.; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Viray, 25, of Waipahu, Hawaii.
All were with 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Hammerhead out of Hawaii, flying for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade in Afghanistan.
Despite numerous third-party reports detailing the helicopter's crash and Workman's death, the Dept. of Defense (DOD) waited longer than is normally standard to report the death to local media outlets.
DOD Press Officer Lt. Commander Katherine Meadows told KTVB the wait-time was related to several factors.
"It was unusual, but sometimes it just varies due to next of kin notifications, and when the notice is sent out due to multiple casualties," Meadows said.
On Monday, hundreds of soldiers gathered inside a hangar at the Kandahar Air Field to mourn their fallen comrades, including Workman. The ceremony included a prayer service that featured memorials to each soldier, and also included personal items such as the mens' boots, dog tags, service weapons, and helmets.
Stars and stripes reporter Heath Druzin reported that Workman's military friends remembered him as leader who performed at a capacity much higher than his rank:
“A lot of people put a lot of responsibility on him,” his friend, 1st Lt. Cody Greene said. “(One officer said,) ‘As a specialist, he’s one of the best platoon sergeants I’ve ever had.’”
Military officials informed Workman's family of his death last week. In a news release, the family provided the following statement:
“Chris was a highly energetic, self reliant man. He was very outgoing and had many friends from throughout Idaho, to include his college friends from Idaho State University.
He came from a large Greek and Italian family and had many family members from around Idaho and the Northwest. He loved his family very much, especially his wife Camille and his stepson Cole Hayes. He also loved his dog, a beagle named Lucky.
While stationed with the Army in Hawaii, he loved to go to the beach, swim and climb the volcanoes there. He was very fit and his favorite thing to do was fitness and bodybuilding. We want the world to know he will be missed by his loving family and by all who knew him."