3 dead in military helicopter crash were experienced pilots


(L-R) Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda (Photos provided by New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs)

MENDON, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.

The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field near Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors. Witnesses who called 911 reported hearing an engine sputtering and said the helicopter was flying very low.

An Army Safety Investigation team arrived at the site Thursday from Fort Rucker in Alabama. The incident remains under investigation, NewsNation affiliate WROC reported.

Skoda served in the Army from 1985 to 1987 and joined the National Guard 1987. He was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and was deployed there in 2013 and 2019.

Koch, a 20-year member of the Guard, served in the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He also was a civilian pilot for the New York State Police. State police said he is survived by his wife and four children.

Prial served in the Army after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2012. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015. He became a captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the Guard so he could continue to fly, officials said.

Both the National Guard and New York State Police provided statements on the deaths Friday morning.

Read the full statement from the National Guard

These Soldiers were a part of our National Guard family and we mourn their loss, alongside their family members and loved ones.

The New York National Guard will be there for these family members as they navigate these trying times. Our chaplains and casualty assistance officers will be with them whenever needed.

Our service members wish to extend their heartfelt thanks to the members of law enforcement, first responders, and the community at large for their support and sympathy during this trying time.


The New York State Police are mourning the loss of Mr. Christian Koch, Division Civilian Pilot, Aviation Unit-Rochester. Mr. Koch, also a pilot with the New York Army National Guard, was tragically killed on January 20, 2021, when the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter he was flying crashed in the town of Menden, in Monroe County.  Mr. Koch has been a pilot with the New York State Police since March of 2016.

In addition to a pilot and crew member on many rescue and search missions, Mr. Koch also served as a Division Unit Trainer, instrumental in the last year conducting annual training for Division pilots. He was recently honored by the Red Cross of Western New York for his role in the June 2020 rescue of an injured 11-year-old boy in Wyoming County. Along with first responders on the ground, and a State Police crew in the air, the boy was hoisted more than 100 feet from a gorge and taken for medical care. 

Mr. Koch is survived by his wife and four children. The New York State Police thank him for his service to his country, and to the people of the State of New York.

ny state police

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WROC contributed to this report.

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