Watch CBS News

3 Men From N.Y., Including 2 FDNY Members, Killed In Military Helicopter Crash

COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Three of the seven people who died when a military helicopter crashed Thursday in Western Iraq were from New York, including two citizen-soldiers who also served the FDNY.

Lt. Chris Raguso, a firefighter from Long Island who worked with the FDNY, was killed, along with Fire Marshal Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis.

Lt. Christopher Raguso, Fire Marshal Christopher 'Tripp' Zanetis
Lt. Christopher Raguso, Fire Marshal Christopher 'Tripp' Zanetis (credit: FDNY)

"They are truly two of New York City's bravest – running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, loved ones, and fellow service members and FDNY members."

"Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service – as New York City Firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces," said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. "The hearts and prayers of the entire Department are with their loved ones and with the families of their five fellow service members who lost their lives defending our country."

Last night the Commack Fire Department and this great nation of ours lost a great American Patriot, friend and brother....

Posted by Commack Fire Department on Friday, March 16, 2018

Raguso had been with the FDNY since 2005 and was cited for bravery and life-saving actions six times as an individual firefighter or as part of a unit. He was also a volunteer firefighter in Commack.

He is survived by his wife Carmela and two young daughters.

"I was with the family last night and this morning. As you can imagine, they're devastated. They can't put it to words how they feel. It's numbing," Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Pat Fazio said. "It's numbing to us here in the fire department as his fire department family on the volunteer level."

People described Raguso as "big-hearted." He helped rescue victims in Texas and Puerto Rico after last year's hurricanes.

He died the day after his 39th birthday.

"He told his family this was going to be his last mission. He went over there hoping to come home. Unfortunately, he's not coming home," Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Steven Fontana said.

Zanetis had been a firefighter since 2004 and was promoted to Fire Marshal in 2013. He was recognized for bravery as part of an investigative in 2014. He is survived by his parents.

He was an avid athlete and had taken a leave of absence from the FDNY to attend law school.

Also killed was Dashan Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported. He was the father of two young children.

Dashan Briggs
Dashan Briggs (Photo: CBS2)

"I am heartbroken to learn of reports that seven service members lost their lives last night in a tragic helicopter crash in Iraq.  At least one of these heroes served in the New York Air National Guard, 106th Rescue Wing in Suffolk County. The service members in this unit selflessly deploy around the world to provide combat search and rescue coverage for United States and allied forces, " Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. "This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifices our heroes in uniform face every day.  My sincere condolences are with the family members and I ask that all New Yorkers keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

The crash did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and is under investigation, the Pentagon said.

"This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria.

The helicopter was used by the Air Force for combat search and rescue, and was in transit from one location to another when it went down Thursday afternoon near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province.

The Pentagon said an accompanying U.S. helicopter immediately reported the crash and a quick-reaction force comprised of Iraqi security forces and Coalition members secured the scene.

President Donald Trump offered his thoughts and prayers on Twitter Friday for the families of service members killed, saying he was thinking of the "brave troops," and adding that "their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten."

The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have an outpost in Qaim, which is located near the Syrian border. The anti-IS campaign accelerated through much of last year, as coalition and Iraqi forces battled to take back a string of cities and towns.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over IS in Mosul in July. In the following months, Iraqi forces retook a handful of other IS-held towns including Tal Afar in August, Hawija in September and Qaim in October. In November, Iraqi forces retook the last Iraqi town held by IS -- Rawah, near the border with Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition has continued to work with Iraq and Syrian Democratic Forces to shore up the border region to make sure that foreign fighters and insurgents can't move freely across the region.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.