National Guard identifies 3 local soldiers killed in military helicopter crash in Mendon

Local News

MENDON, N.Y. (WROC) — The National Guard has identified three soldiers killed from a military helicopter crash in Mendon Wednesday night.

The three victims of the crash are 54-year-old Steven Skoda of Rochester, 39-year-old Christian Koch of Honeoye Falls, and 30-year-old Daniel Prial of Rochester.

Biographies from the National Guard

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda was a 35-year veteran of the Army and the New York Army National Guard. He served in the Active Army from 1985 to 1987. He joined the National Guard 1987.

In 1992 he became a pilot and began flying UH-1 helicopters from the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester. He was 54 years old.

Skoda was a veteran of the Afghanistan War who deployed there in 2013 and 2019.

He was an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and an instrument flight instructor and a UH-60 maintenance test pilot. He had almost 5,000 flying hours.

He mentored Soldiers of all ranks throughout his career.

Skoda was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, the UH-1 “Huey”, the OH-58 Kiowa, the AH-1 Cobra, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

He worked as a full-time National Guard technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport, as well as serving as a member of C Company of the 171st General Support Aviation Battalion.

A National Guard technician is a federal employee who must also serve in the National Guard as a condition of employment. Skoda had been a technician since 1999.

Skoda’s awards included the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon, the Department of State Superior Honor Award, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation.

He was a friend and mentor to all the Soldiers in his unit, supporting the training and career progressions of hundreds of aircrews throughout his career, according to Soldiers at the flight facility.

He was single and was a resident of Rochester.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch (COKE) was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard. He initially served as an infantryman in A Company of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry.

He became a helicopter pilot in 2006, flying from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport. He was 39 years old.

Koch was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012- 2013 and served in Iraq in 2008-2009. He served as part of Operation Noble Eagle, the National Guard security mission in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in 2004.

His hard work and drive lead him to becoming the Senior Instructor Pilot for the unit. His motivation and infectious personality made him a great Soldier, Leader and Father, according to unit members.

He was an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a senior instructor pilot and instrument flight instructor. In civilian life he worked as a civilian pilot for the New York State Police.

Koch was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, as well as the CH-47 Chinook. He had 2,350 flying hours.

His awards include the Air Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Forces Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Reserve Overseas Training ribbon, the Army Parachutist Badge, the Senior Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

He held a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SUNY Brockport.

He was a resident of Honeoye Falls and is married to Teressa DaGama.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial had served in the Army since 2012 after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 with the 82nd Airborne Division and served as an instructor pilot for students at the Fort Rucker, Alabama, where the Army trains helicopter pilots.

Prial was 30 years old.

He attained the rank of captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the New York Army National Guard so he could continue to fly. He was working as a federal technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport.

A National Guard technician is a federal employee who must also serve in the National Guard as a condition of employment.

He was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and had 670 flying hours.

His awards include the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.

Prial was extremely humble and family centric. He had an ability to fit in quickly and make an immediate impact on new groups, according to Soldiers in his unit.

He was single and lived in Rochester.


A statement from the National Guard Friday morning, in part:

“These Soldiers were a part of our National Guard family and we mourn their loss, alongside their family members and loved ones.

The New York National Guard will be there for these family members as they navigate these trying times. Our chaplains and casualty assistance officers will be with them whenever needed.

Our service members wish to extend their heartfelt thanks to the members of law enforcement, first responders, and the community at large for their support and sympathy during this trying time.”

A statement from New York State Police Friday morning:

The New York State Police are mourning the loss of Mr. Christian Koch, Division Civilian Pilot, Aviation Unit-Rochester. Mr. Koch, also a pilot with the New York Army National Guard, was tragically killed on January 20, 2021, when the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter he was flying crashed in the town of Menden, in Monroe County.  Mr. Koch has been a pilot with the New York State Police since March of 2016.

In addition to a pilot and crew member on many rescue and search missions, Mr. Koch also served as a Division Unit Trainer, instrumental in the last year conducting annual training for Division pilots. He was recently honored by the Red Cross of Western New York for his role in the June 2020 rescue of an injured 11-year-old boy in Wyoming County. Along with first responders on the ground, and a State Police crew in the air, the boy was hoisted more than 100 feet from a gorge and taken for medical care. 

Mr. Koch is survived by his wife and four children. The New York State Police thank him for his service to his country, and to the people of the State of New York.

Koch is a graduation of SUNY Brockport. The school released the following statement:

We are deeply saddened to hear about the loss of three members of the military. This is being felt by family, friends, first responders, and the community as a whole. Flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the three lost souls from the military installation and mark this somber time. Chief Warrant officer Christian Koch SUNY Brockport alumni.

KOCH had received a host of medals, citations and awards accompanied Koch’s career, including the Air Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Koch lived in Honeoye Falls with his wife and four children. Members of his unit said “his motivation and infectious personality made him a great soldier, leader and father.”

Photos of Christian Koch

According to the New York Army National Guard, the UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter was on a routine training mission when it crashed in a farmer’s field along West Bloomfield Road near Cheese Factory Road around 6:32 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials say the aircraft and crew was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion. The unit trains to perform aeromedical evacuation and the crew had been conducting night vision goggle proficiency training in the local training area.

The incident remains under investigation. National Guard officials said an Army Safety Investigation team arrived locally Thursday from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, to begin analysis of the accident. Officials say the team will gather all relevant data and evidence to use during its investigation from before, during, and after the accident.

Witnesses reported hearing sputtering sounds and seeing the helicopter flying low to the ground.

MORE | Neighbors who witnessed fatal helicopter crash: ‘It breaks my heart’

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said Wednesday night emergency crews arriving on scene saw the helicopter on fire in the field, and “went into life-saving mode.”

“Once we recognized the life saving measures wouldn’t be successful, we secured the scene and assisted with the recovery of those heroes,” said Chief Deputy Michael Fowler of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, who also retired from the National Guard last May. “That went on for several hours and had a lot of support from other agencies to make sure that process was done in the most professional and dignified manner possible.”

A police procession escorted the deceased military members from the crash site to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office Thursday morning.

WATCH: Procession for soldiers killed in Mendon military helicopter crash

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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