June 13 event in Keeseville will mark 40th anniversary of crash of NY Air National Guard rescue Helicopter

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An HH-3E rescue helicopter like this, operated by the NY Air National Guard, crashed on Trembleau Mountain in Keeseville on June 13, 1978

KEESVELLE, N.Y. (06/11/2018) (readMedia)-- The New York Air National Guard and the VFW Post 1505 in Keeseville, N.Y. will mark the 40th anniversary of a helicopter crash that took the lives of seven Airmen stationed at what is now F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. on Long Island on June 13, 2018.

WHO: Members of VFW Post 1505, Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing and Airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing as well as veterans of the wing and members of VFW Post 5350 in Westhampton Beach which raised money for the new memorials.

WHAT: A ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the crash of an HH-3E search and rescue helicopter assigned to the 102nd Aerospace Rescue Squadron of what was then the 106th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group. The event will feature ceremonies at the Keeseville VFW and a trip to the crash site at Trembleau Mountain. Memorial stones honoring the crew will be placed at both locations.

WHEN: 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The key events – including a visit to the crash site-should be over by 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: Keeseville VFW Post 1505, 1309 U.S. 9, Keeseville, NY 12944

Coverage Opportunities:

Video of the ceremonies at the VFW and the crash site. There will be opportunities to interview members of the NY Air National Guard, veterans of the 106th Rescue Wing, and VFW members.

Press should contact Richard Bresette – 518-572-7287-for information about VFW Post 1505 and the event. Press should contact Senior Master Sgt. Cheran Cambridge-- 631-723-7470-for information about the 106th Rescue Wing.


On June 13, 1978, an HH-3E search and rescue helicopter operated by the 102 Aerospace Rescue Squadron of the 106th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group-radio call sign Jolly-85-- was heading back to its base at Westhampton Beach, Long Island, when it crashed on Trembleau Mountain two miles northeast of Keeseville NY during bad weather.

Killed in the crash were:

• Captain John D. Sfeir, Aircraft Commander

• Captain John W. Klevens, Co-Pilot

• Master Sgt. Allan C. Snyder, Pararescueman

• Technical Sgt. Ronald H. Allen, Flight Mechanic

• SSgt Sgt. Scott B. Hursch, Pararescueman

• Technical Sgt. Ralf J. Tomassone Jr., Crew Chief

• Staff Sgt. David D. Lambert, Pararescueman

The crew had been practicing water rescues in Lake Champlain at what was then Plattsburgh Air Force Base and was a Strategic Air Command bomber base.

The aircraft-nicknamed a "Jolly Green Giant" because of its size and color-had lifted off from Plattsburgh at 9 a.m. Ten miles out from the Air Force Base the pilot reported that the weather was too bad to fly and he was returning the base. There were no more radio calls and ten minutes later a search began, according to published accounts.

According to the Plattsburgh Press Republican, Phil Pray, a resident of Pray Road, was coming out of his house at the base of Trembleau Mountain when he heard an explosion and saw smoke. Pray hiked two miles to the location and found the area covered with burning debris.

Fire fighters had to hike into the site to extinguish the flames and locate the bodies of the crewmen. The remains of the aircrew were evacuated later that day and returned to the base on Long Island on June 16, where Governor Hugh Carey met with the families of the men.

The 106th Rescue Wing

Based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, Suffolk County, Long Island, the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing is dedicated to providing search and rescue capability both here in the United States and in combat zones overseas.

Airmen of the 106th have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

The wing operates the HH-60 Search and Rescue Helicopter and the HC-130 "King" search and rescue aircraft. The HC-130 has the capability to refuel helicopters in flight and to drop para-rescue Airmen thousands of miles away if necessary.

The wing's pararescue Airmen and Combat Rescue Officers go through two years of training in scuba diving, parachuting, emergency medical skills, search and rescue, and survival, escape and evasion.

The wing's 102nd Rescue Squadron can trace its history back to the 102nd Aero Squadron which was organized in 1917 during World War 1.

Prior to becoming a search and rescue wing in 1975 the wing's ancestors served as a bomber and air defense unit.

In the summer and fall of 2017, Airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing responded to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean. The wing's Airmen rescued over 500 people in Texas and evacuated more than 1,500 Americans from the island of St. Maarten.

In March this year, four members of the 106th Rescue Wing died in Iraq will participating in the campaign against the Islamic State.

The HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant"

The U.S. Air Force developed the Sikorsky HH-3E helicopter, nicknamed the "Jolly Green Giant," to perform combat search and rescue (CSAR) to recover downed Airmen during the Southeast Asia War. A highly modified version of Sikorsky's CH-3 transport helicopter, the HH-3E carried both armor plating and armament to protect it from hostile forces during rescues of aircrews in a combat area.

Fifty CH-3Es were converted to HH-3Es with the addition of armor, defensive armament, self-sealing fuel tanks and a rescue hoist. With a watertight hull, the HH-3E could land on water, and its large rear door and ramp permitted easy loading and unloading.

The first air-refuelable helicopter to be produced, the HH-3E's retractable fuel probe and external fuel tanks gave it a range limited only by the endurance of the aircrew. In fact, in 1967, two aerial refueled HH-3Es set the long-distance record for helicopters by flying non-stop from New York to Paris, France.

The first USAF HH-3Es arrived in Vietnam in 1967, and they operated out of Udorn Air Base, Thailand, and Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam. During the Southeast Asia War, HH-3 crewmen were awarded one Medal of Honor, twenty-four Air Force Crosses, and over 190 Silver Stars.

A quarter of a century later, HH-3Es participated in OPERATION DESERT STORM, and they provided rescue support in the early years of the Space Shuttle program. The USAF retired its last HH-3Es by 1995.