March 16, 2015

Four National Guardsmen tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Florida

On March 10, 2015, a terrible tragedy occurred in the Santa Rosa Sound on the Florida Panhandle.

A night time training mission out of Eglin Air Force Base was undertaken in which a group of Marines were to practice rappelling down ropes from a helicopter into the water.

The helicopter went down in the ocean off a remote beach between Pensacola and Destin. The beach is owned by the military and is used for test missions.

Seven Marines and four National Guardsmen died in the accident. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

The National Guardsmen were part of the Guard’s 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion based at the Hammond, Louisiana airport. Each had served two tours in Iraq and had joined in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the 2010 BP oil spill off Louisiana.

Top - George David Strother; Thomas Florich
Bottom - Lance Bergeron; George Griffin Jr.
Tragically deceased are:

Chief Warrant Officer 4 George Wayne Griffin Jr. - Age 37. George, of Delhi, Louisiana, joined the National Guard in 1994. He was the battalion standardization pilot with over 6,000 flight hours, including more than 1,000 combat hours. Comrades stated that he was born to be an Army Aviator. He was talented and was well respected by his peers. He had a passion for flying.  He was a great friend and a brother to all. George Griffin is survived by his father; his wife, and four children.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 George David Strother - Age 44. George Strother was an instructor pilot with over 2,400 flight hours, including more than 700 combat hours. He was called Dave by his comrades.  He had a big personality with a strong will. He also had a huge heart and was a good man. He is survived by his mother; his wife, his son and his step-daughter. 

Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron - Age 40.  Lance was from Thibodeaux, Louisiana. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 and then the Louisiana National Guard in 2001 as a helicopter repairer. He had more than 1,300 flight hours, including 377 combat hours. He was a qualified flight instructor. He was well respected by his peers. Comrades describe him as knowledgeable and dedicated. He was a family oriented man.  He loved his parents, his wife and his two children.  

Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich - Age 26.  Thomas was from Fairfax County, Virginia.  He enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 2007 as a helicopter repairer. He had more than 125 flight hours and was a graduate of the warrior leader course. Military comrades stated that Tom was full of life, and his personality could light up a room. He was well respected by his peers. He was dedicated and loyal.  He would do what was required of him to complete a mission. Tom is survived by his father and stepmother and his wife. 

The Louisiana National Guard is in mourning over the deaths of their brothers who
Light a candle for George, Dave, Tom and Lance.
Light their way to Heaven.
will be forever remembered. Military officials stated: “These are brave men, true men. These heroes’ names will forever be etched on our hearts and in our minds.”

The loved ones of these men are devastated over their sudden and tragic deaths. They will be forever mourned.

The survivors of these men have suffered an unspeakable loss.

Thank you for your service, Guardsmen.

Pray for all who die in the service of their country.

Pray for all who die by misadventure. They are with us one moment and are gone before we can say goodbye.

Pray that George Griffin Jr., George Dave Strother, Lance Bergeron and Thomas Florich are in heaven. Pray that they are at peace and are with God. Amen.

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