Katy native ID'd as one of 4 soldiers killed in Fort Hood chopper crash

KATY, TX (KTRK) -- A Katy man was identified as one of the soldiers killed in a Blackhawk helicopter crash on November 23 at Fort Hood.

The Army identified Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael F. Tharp, 40, as one of those who died in the crash that claimed the lives of three other servicemen.

"He had the option to retire in September, but he wanted to achieve more," said Tharp's older sister Meredith Ray.

Ray told ABC-13, her brother loved to fly, and that's what kept him from retiring this past year.

"He wanted to fly. And that was his final dream. And he did it," said Ray.

The crash occurred sometime after 5:49 pm in the northeast portion of the Fort Hood training area.

The Army says all four crew members were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, First Army Division West. The aircraft, assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment was on a routine training mission, according to the Army.

"We don't know much either. But we have a very strong family and a lot of friends, a lot of strong support," said Ray.

The other soldiers were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Toby A. Childers, 40, a Hays, Kansas native; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen B. Cooley, 40, a Cantonment, Florida native; and Sgt.1st Class Jason M. Smith, 35, a Destrehan, Louisiana native.

Ray said her brother was the "glue" of the family. He was one of five children and had deep roots in the Katy area. He was raised there, and graduated Katy High School in 1994.

"We are with a great loss right now, but I also feel for those who did not have the opportunity to meet him," said Ray.

Tharp told his family he was going to retire next year so that he could spend more time with his six year old son who lives in Kentucky.

The Army says the cause of the crash at this time is unknown, pending an investigation.
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