Local News

Investigation Resumes Monday Into Deadly Helicopter Crash

Posted May 9, 2005

— Investigators will be back at the Cape Fear River on Monday to search for more clues in the crash of an Apache helicopter that killed two members of the North Carolina National Guard.

Memorial service plans also are expected to be announced Monday for First Lt. Christopher Plummer and CW3 Richard James, who were killed when their Apache helicopter crashed Thursday night into the Cape Fear River.

Both soldiers were assigned to the First Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment, which is based in Morrisville, National Guard officials said.

"This will be a tremendous loss," said Lt. Col. Ronny Coats.

Coats was not only the battalion's commander, he was also a long-time friend of James, the pilot of the helicopter.

James, who lived in Lewisville, had served more than 20 years in the military, including the last 16 as a member of the N.C. National Guard. The 44-year-old was part of the unit that returned in May 2004 from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.

"He represents the adversity we've gone through and the dedication and loyalty that America needs to keep moving forward," Coats said.

Plummer, the co-pilot, lived in North Raleigh. He joined the N.C. National Guard in May 2002, and had served 13 years as a reservist. He was 31 years old.

"He was a new soldier -- a new aviator," Coats said, "but one of our brightest."

WRAL-TV also has learned that Plummer planned on attending law school in the fall. Members of his family told WRAL that Plummer had been accepted to the University of Miami, his father's alma mater.

Plummer's roommate also served with him in the Guard. The roommate said Plummer was "very bright" and his death is a terrible loss. His thoughts "go out to Plummer's family."

In Forsyth County, where James lived, neighbors said James was a busy man who always made time for his family. He was a devoted father, they said, to his son and two daughters.

In a statement released by the National Guard, family members also said they will remember James as a loving father, husband, brother and son.

"I take it personal," Coats added. "I'm very tied to these people. And, it hurts."

James and Plummer had boarded the helicopter Thursday for a routine training mission. The densely wooded area on the Chatham-Lee county line, where the helicopter crashed, makes for an ideal training ground for a unit that flew 9,000 hours in Afghanistan last year. The unit had not had a serious accident in 24 years.

Investigators removed the largest pieces of the wreckage from the water on Saturday. But smaller pieces may have floated downstream or splintered off as the Apache helicopter descended into the river. Anyone who finds pieces of the helicopter is asked not to touch it and to call investigators at

(919) 664-6181

.

The wreckage will be taken to a hangar, and an investigation will continue for several months.

Officials said the on-site investigation could be completed in several days.

Crews also continue working to get power back for residents. Progress Energy said it should have two miles of high voltage power lines near the Lee and Chatam county lines back up and running within a week. The energy company says it has temporarily re-routed power so 5,400 customers are not left without electricity.

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