Two New York Army National Guard pilots from Upstate New York lost their lives on Friday, March 8, when the UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter they were flying crashed near Rio Grande City, Texas.

The incident also resulted in the death of a Border Patrol agent, while the aircraft crew chief sustained severe injuries and is currently hospitalized.

The pilots were part of Detachment 2, A Company, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, and were operating as members of Joint Task Force North, which supports Customs and Border Protection operations along the southwest border.

The New York Army National Guard has been deploying UH-72 Lakota pilots and support personnel to the southwest border since 2014. However, the helicopter involved in the crash was not one of the two UH-72s operated by the New York Army National Guard but belonged to the District of Columbia Army National Guard.

The two aviators who lost their lives were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, from Rensselaer, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, from Schenectady, both part of Albany's Capital District.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski

East Greenbush Police Department
East Greenbush Police Department

Frankoski, who joined the New York Army National Guard in 2016, became a warrant officer in 2019 and trained as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. She received numerous military awards for her service, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

 Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia

New York State Police
New York State Police

Grassia enlisted in 2013 as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintenance specialist before becoming a warrant officer in 2019. His awards included the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Grassia was also a New York State Trooper. Grassia, who became a member of the New York State Police in April of 2022, was most recently assigned to SP Livingston in Troop K. However, shortly before his deployment, he was transferred to Troop G, State Police Fonda.

Major General Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, expressed shock and devastation following the loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Grassia and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frankoski. He emphasized that their service alongside the U.S. border in Texas holds great significance and expressed condolences to the family and friends of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who also died in the crash. The injured crew chief's name was withheld per privacy regulations.

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