FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) — A soldier killed in a helicopter crash at Wright Army Field in late March was “not an accident,” according to the Army Times.
Capt. James Bellew, 26, died in a double helicopter crash on March 30. Officials said the incident happened around 2 a.m. involving two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, which serve as the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopters.
The Army Times says a source with knowledge of the investigation, claims the crash is now under criminal investigation. The newspaper also claims the continued involvement of the Criminal Investigation Division indicates that a criminal investigation is underway.
Editor’s note: The video below is from a newscast on March 30.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson emailed WSAV News 3 the following statement:
“The CID investigation is ongoing. All manners of death are considered when investigating a noncombat related death of a Soldier. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner, based on the known facts and circumstances of the case, will determine the cause and manner of death. Capt. Bellew was on MEDEVAC duty the night of the incident. MEDEVAC crews sleep on site to remain on call at Wright Army Airfield during their shifts to remain postured to respond to medical emergencies. The initial indication is that all other crewmembers were asleep at the time of the incident. Capt. Bellew was the only crewmember involved in the incident and he was the only one injured or killed in the incident. At this point, we cannot address the manner of the damage to the two aircraft, timeline of events, or the response from the tower and emergency services, as those details are still considered part of the active investigation. We have been overwhelmed by the support and condolences on this tragic event and ask that people respect the desire for privacy and time to grieve by the Bellew family, as well as our Soldiers. No further information will be released at this time to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
Bellew was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Combat Brigade. The Charlottesville, Virginia native joined the Army in 2017 as a medical service officer, the 3rd Infantry Division said.
Bellew became an Aeromedical Evacuation Officer in 2019 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division since March 2020, the 3rd Infantry Division said.
“The loss of James is an immeasurable tragedy to his family, friends, crew and fellow Soldiers,” said Col. Eric Vanek, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade commander. “James was a part of one of the noblest professions imaginable; he dedicated his life to serving our country and did so in a role where he was constantly helping, and saving the lives of others.”
Bellew was tasked with medically evacuating critically-ill COVID-19 patients to higher level of care across the country, soldiers and families at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield.
Fort Stewart officials withheld the soldier’s name until his family members were properly notified.
“Normally I hear the booming going on and the guns firing and the tanks and the helicopters you hear flying back and forth, and last night it was weird because I did hear a big boom and it was about 5 to 2 when I heard it, but that’s all I heard,” said Liberty County resident, Mary Winkles. “I didn’t hear anything flying around after that big boom. Then I wake up this morning and found out there was a helicopter that crashed. And you know, they’re here for us, they’re protecting us. So yeah it’s heartbreaking, and we say prayers for the family and everybody involved.”
Fort Stewart has closed Wright Army Airfield until further notice as the investigation is ongoing.