Top bravery commendations were awarded to several members of the Utah National Guard Sunday for their rescue of fellow unit members during a fatal helicopter crash in California June 3, 1987.
Utah National Guard members from the Attack Helicopter Troop, 163rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Jordan were on a training mission to Fort Irwin, Calif., when when one of the helicopters crashed, killing two crew members and badly injuring three others. The medals were given to unit members who helped administer first aid to the crash victims until a medical-evacuation helicopter arrived, said Col. Robert Mabey, the helicopter group's commander.The Medal of Valor, the highest honor given by the governor to members of the Utah National Guard, was presented by Utah Adjutant Gen. John L. Matthews to Sgt. 1st Class Victor Adams, West Jordan; and Staff Sgt. Russell Malone, Kearns.
The Army Commendation Medal, awarded by the secretary of the Army, was given to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Reeder J. Eagar, Riverton; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steve R. Chubbuck, West Valley City; Sgt. 1st Class Byron D. Hobbs, Lehi; Sgt. 1st Class Louis J. Mirabile, American Fork; Sgt. Floyd D. Pando, West Valley City; and Sgt. Larry J. Sorenson, Kearns. The commendation medals were presented by Maj. John R. Palmer, attack troop commander.
Capt. William Spurgeon, Salt Lake City, has been nominated for the Soldier's Medal, the Army's highest peacetime award for bravery. That commendation should be processed in about one month, Mabey said.
Spurgeon was the co-pilot of the helicopter that crashed. "He re-entered the burning helicopter and physically removed one of the three badly injured people who was still trapped in his seat," Mabey said. "He actually ripped the seat out of the floor of the aircraft when he couldn't get the shoulder harness undone."
Sgt. 1st Class Peter Graves, Salt Lake City; and Sgt. Todd Smit, West Valley City, were killed in the crash. Injured were 1st Sgt. Wendell Jakins, Sandy; Staff Sgt. Darold Butcher, Grantsville; and Sgt. Henry Cieslak, West Jordan.
Mabey said Adams and Malone took the lead in coordinating the initial treatment offered by the nine guardsmen to the injured crew members. "The fact that the three badly injured people are alive today is due to these guys," Mabey said.