Crash victim was recent A&M grad

January 13, 2009 4:29:26 PM PST
A recent Texas A&M University graduate who dreamed of flying helicopters and was celebrating his recent Army commission has been identified as the victim of a Black Hawk helicopter crash on the school's campus. [PHOTOS: See images from where the chopper went down Monday]

Zachary Cook, 22, was killed when the UH-60 helicopter crashed Monday afternoon near the Corps of Cadets field on the campus, about 100 miles northwest of Houston. The other four people aboard -- a crew from the Army National Guard -- were injured in the crash.

Texas National Guard officials identified the injured as 1st Lt. Ellis W. Taylor, 31, of Buda; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew J. Smith, 41, of Leander; Sgt. Richard D. Ravenscraft, 24, of Austin; and Sgt. Charles C. Mitts, 42, of Spring.

Smith and Mitts were in critical condition; Taylor and Ravenscraft were in stable condition, National Guard officials said.

Cook, who was from Lufkin, was a member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadre at Texas A&M. Taylor, Smith and Mitts had been deployed in Iraq from 2006 to 2007. Ravensport served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.

"Our entire Texas National Guard community extends heartfelt sympathies to the family of Lt. Zachary Cook, who died yesterday afternoon in the helicopter crash at Texas A&M University," said Lt. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez, commander of the Texas Military Forces.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, paid tribute to Cook on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

"His loss brings a great sadness to his family and friends, the extended Texas A&M family, and the Army, all of us deprived of this patriotic citizen who was dedicated to serving our great nation in uniform," Edwards said.

Classes at the university are scheduled to resume after winter break on Jan. 20.

The Black Hawk crashed shortly after takeoff during a routine training exercise at Duncan Field on the university campus, National Guard officials said.

Col. Bill Meehan, spokesman for Texas Military Forces, said the unit had been providing transportation to and from Camp Swift, about 20 miles east of Austin.

The accident is under investigation by the Combat Readiness/Safety Center, in Fort Rucker, Ala., home of the U.S. Army Aviation Center.

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