Army officials said Thursday that they had recovered the body of one of two soldiers killed when a Texas Army National Guard helicopter broke apart on a routine training mission and crashed into Galveston Bay about 25 miles southeast of Houston.
Besides searching for the missing crewmen, recovery teams also used a crane on a barge to retrieve parts of the wrecked Apache aircraft.
Witnesses said the helicopter was flying unusually low Wednesday afternoon when they heard a loud noise, saw it break up and plunge into in the bay about 25 yards offshore near a vacant cruise ship terminal.
The Army's Centralized Accident Investigative Team based at Fort Rucker, Alabama, was en route, said Major General John Nichols, adjutant general of the Texas National Guard.
"The team of experts will help us determine the cause of the accident," he said Thursday. "If this was preventable, we want to find out how it could have been prevented. And if it's caused by some other factor, [we want to] identify that and mitigate that for all helicopter aviation."
Nichols said it would be at least a month before any details of the investigation were released.
The Army identified the men killed as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dustin Lee Mortenson, 32, of League City and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucas Maurice Lowe, 33, of Hardin. Mortenson was described as an aviation material officer; Lowe was an aircraft maintenance officer.
They were assigned to the 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, and were based at nearby Ellington Field.
Nichols said military personnel were "wrapping arms around the family members and helping through this terrible time, helping them grieve and cope with the situation."
"Our hearts and our greatest condolences and sympathies go out to our families of our Texas heroes who died," he said. "They were on a normal mission, doing what National Guard members do every day, training to go to war and also training to defend America."