Friends of crash victim: 'Army is a family'

January 14, 2009 1:05:55 PM PST
On Tuesday, there was a face to the deadly helicopter crash on the campus of Texas A&M University. It's still not clear what caused the Black Hawk to go down, hurting four others, one of whom is in Houston. [PHOTOS: See images from where the chopper went down Monday]

Sgt. Charles Mitts, 42, of Spring, Texas, was moved to Memorial Hermann Hospital for treatment. While the wounded are being treated, friends and family of Second Lt. Zachary Cook are coping with the tremendous loss.

An Army aviation team spent the day at the crash site at Texas A&M's Duncan Field while officers tried to deal with the loss of an Army lieutenant and the injuries of four Texas members of the Army National Guard.

"The army is a family. Texas A&M is an extended family. I will miss him as well as there are literally hundreds of Aggies who have contacted me to express their condolences," said Col. Samuel Hawes, Professor of Military Science at Texas A&M.

Zachary Cook, 22, was killed in the crash. The Lufkin native had just graduated from A&M in December and dreamed of being an army pilot.

"To know he passed away doing what he wanted to do, it's pretty sad," said ROTC cadet Roy Aviles.

Cook had been commissioned to the Army and was working in the ROTC program. He was one of five officers aboard the Black Hawk UH 60 when it crashed upon takeoff on Monday during part of an annual training exercise.

Friends from Lufkin describe Cook as quiet, but he was still named "Mr. Personality" at Lufkin High School.

"He was the epitome of good. I can tell you numerous times when he was there for me, there was a guy picking on me in the quad. He was on horseback and put a horse between me and the other guy," said friend Jake Kilgore.

They say Cook was living a lifelong dream.

"We smile that he lived one heck of a life while he was here because he lived everyday when he woke up at three o'clock in the morning to when he went to bed at midnight," said friend Hall Henderson.

Two colleagues remain in critical condition including Sgt. Mitts.

"It really stops to make you think, life is so short not only live it to the fullest it's fragile and people don't realize that until something like this happens," said ROTC cadet Charles Bauman.

An Army aviation team from Fort Rutgers, Alabama, is investigating the crash. Authorities say it could take at least a week.

Texas military forces have temporarily suspended flying the UH 60 Black Hawk during the investigation.

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