Local News

Soldier killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash has local ties

Posted December 18, 2013 2:58 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2013 6:50 p.m. EST

— One of six U.S. service members killed when a helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan Tuesday was originally from Johnston County.

U.S. defense officials have not released the identities of those who died when the Black Hawk UH-60 went down in the remote district of Shajau, but a source tells WRAL News that Sgt. Chris Bohler, an Army helicopter crew chief from Willow Spring, was among the victims.

The crash is under investigation, but according to initial reports to The Associated Press, the troops had mechanical problems and came under fire after the crash. It was unclear whether any of the casualties were the result of enemy fire.

Family members of Bohler, 29, did not want to comment about their loss Wednesday, but his mother, Deborah Bohler, posted to Facebook that her heart "shattered into a million pieces. Dear God gives us strength through this pain."

Bohler's mother works in Raleigh at the Wake County District Attorney's Office, where staff and officials were shocked and devastated by the loss.

"It's affected people in this office and throughout this courthouse," District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Wednesday afternoon. "We watch each other's children grow up … we help each other bury each other's parents, and we feel the pains of what has happened. It's a close-knit group."

According to Bohler's Facebook page, he graduated in 2003 from South Johnston High School in Four Oaks and attended Johnston Community College.

In 2007, he joined the Army and was based in Fort Riley, Kansas.

Stephen Sanders worked with Bohler at Lowe's Home Improvement store in Clayton several years ago and said he remembered him as a good man who was always smiling.

"When that young man wanted something, he went for it," Sanders said. "I'm very proud of that young man. I can take off my hat (to him), and I hope his mom and dad feel the same way."

This year, 109 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, out of a total of 139 members of the coalition.

The death toll has dropped significantly since the coalition handed over responsibility for security to Afghan forces last summer and coalition troops are now training and assisting.

By comparison, 394 foreign troops died last year, including 297 Americans.