ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Family and friends are remembering the three local soldiers who were killed in a Black Hark helicopter crash this week.
The helicopter went down in Mendon Wednesday night. The National Guard identified the victims Friday as 54-year-old Steven Skoda of Rochester, 39-year-old Christian Koch of Honeoye Falls, and 30-year-old Daniel Prial of Rochester.
Skoda’s mother and Koch’s best friend spoke with News 8 Friday.
Chief Warrant Officer Christian Koch’s best friend is Todd Estabrooks, a police officer in Livingston County. He says he’s still trying to process what happened to his companion since kindergarten. Koch, he says, would have turned 40 in just a few days.
“It’s a horrible loss to have somebody who you rely on in a lot of different ways just all of a sudden… not there,” Estabrooks said. “That’s the void I have now. I won’t have that one person.”
Estabrooks says he and Koch served in the Army together as infantry before Koch decided to pilot Black Hawks. Both ended up wearing the badge and blue.
“When Christian wasn’t flying for the National Guard,” Estabrooks said, “he was flying for the State Police.”
A GoFundMe for Koch’s family with a $20,000 goal has already crossed the $110,000 mark. Estabrooks says that shows the region isn’t turning their backs on the hero Koch was.
“That’s important,” Estabrooks said. “The community is coming together to make sure his kids are taken care of.”
Barbara Skoda, the mother of Chief Warrant Officer Steven Skoda, spoke on behalf of her family Friday.
“We’re mourning the loss of our son, our brother, our uncle, and friend,” she dais. “We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the other two officers affected by this crash and our thoughts and prayers are with them, too.”
Estabrooks says he takes comfort knowing that in Koch’s final act, he piloted that Black Hawk away from homes in Mendon, and into an empty farm field instead.
“I’m proud of him,” he said. “You know… that’s a great feeling.”
Koch was a graduate of SUNY Brockport. The college is flying flags at half-staff in honor of him.