FDNY honors firefighter killed in Iraq helicopter crash as new details emerge

The New York City Fire Department honored one of its own Tuesday, Lt. Christopher Raguso - one of seven U.S. Airmen killed when their helicopter crashed near al Qaim in western Iraq last week.

Purple and black memorial buntings were draped on the exterior of Engine 249/Ladder 113 in Brooklyn, where Raguso served on the force for eleven years before being promoted to Lieutenant and serving at a station in Queens.

Fellow FDNY member Fire Marshal Christopher Zanetis who joined the force in 2004 was also killed in Thursday's crash.

Both men have been recognized for their bravery in connection with their work at 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," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, loved ones, and fellow service members and FDNY members."

Four of the seven Airmen killed, including Raguso and Zanetis, belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard. The remaining three Airmen belonged to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia and the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

The memorial for Raguso occurs as new details emerge about what happened in the aftermath of last week's accident.

The HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter hit a power line during a routine transfer of personnel to a border outpost that occurs "nearly every day," according to the U.S. commander of Marine forces in al Qaim.
Iraqi Security Forces arrived at the crash site of the American helicopter "minutes" after the incident occurred, Col. Seth Folsom told reporters via telephone at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

He hailed the crash's aftermath as a "high point" of cooperation and coordination between U.S. and Iraqi forces.

It's believed to be the first deadly helicopter crash since the U.S. began fighting ISIS in Iraq in 2014.

Folsom said the Iraqi division commander stayed at the crash site throughout the night as the coalition conducted recovery operations.

"It was touching and humbling at the same time that [Iraqi Security Forces] were just as committed to recovering that air crew as we were," he said.
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