A Marine helicopter pilot from North Attleborough whose wife is expecting their first son was one of 14 Americans killed in two helicopter crashes in Afghanistan today, in one of the deadliest days for US forces since fighting began there eight years ago.
The family of Captain Kyle R. VanDeGiesen, 29
, said he died in one of the crashes. The family said it did not know what occurred and released a statement saying, “It is with sadness today that we learned that our son, brother and husband, Marine Captain Kyle VanDeGiesen was killed today in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
The statement continued, “He was a 1998 graduate of North Attleborough High School, a 2002 graduate of St. Anselm College, and was currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA. He fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Marine helicopter pilot, protecting his family and serving his country.”
His wife, Megan, is expecting their first son, and they have a daughter, Avery, who recently celebrated her first birthday. He also leaves his parents, Ruth Ann and Calvin VanDeGiesen, brothers Ryan and Christian, and sister Caitlin.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
The military has released little information about the crashes, expect to say they were not a result of hostile fire.
The deadliest crash occurred in the western part of Afghanistan. A helicopter went down after leaving the scene of a firefight, killing 10 Americans on board – including three Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The agents routinely patrol with US forces in Afghanistan, the world’s larges producer of opium, the key ingredient of heroin and a major source of funding for insurgent groups.
The helicopter was on an operation that targeted insurgents involved in drug trafficking when a firefighter began.
A military spokeswoman did not give a cause of the crash, but said hostile fire was unlikely because the troops were not receiving fire when the helicopter took off. Taliban fighters claimed they had shot down a helicopter in the Badghis province, but it was not clear if they were referring to the same incident, and their claim could not be independently verified.
It was the first time a DEA agent has died since the agency began operations in Afghanistan in 2005.
A second crash occurred when two US Marine helicopters – a UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra -- collided in flight in the southern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more.
Which crash VanDeGiesen was involved in was not known.
The crashes made today the heaviest single-day loss of life since June 28, 2005, when 19 US troops died, including 16 on an MH-47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down by insurgents.