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National Guard trio killed in upstate New York helicopter crash identified

L to R: Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch (NY National Guard/Released)

The three decorated National Guard members killed in an upstate New York helicopter crash during a routine training mission were identified Friday as Afghanistan war veterans, with the senior member boasting 35 years in the military.

Oft-honored Chief Warrant Officer Steven Skoda, 54, was the longest-serving member of the trio, and was killed in the Wednesday night crash along with Chief Warrant Officers Christian Koch, 39, and Daniel Prial, 30, authorities said.

Their Sikorsky UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter went down in a field about 10 miles south of Rochester, with the fatal crash still under investigation.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda. (NY National Guard/Released)

Skoda was from Rochester, and his career began in 1985 with the U.S. Army, where he served two years before joining the National Guard, according to a Friday news release. He earned more than a dozen awards across his time of service, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

Koch, a 20-year National Guard member, became a helicopter pilot in 2006 after initially serving in the infantry.

Koch, of Honeoye Falls, New York, served both in Afghanistan and Iraq, and collected 16 awards for his service — including a pair for his role in the war on terrorism. Officials said he served as the senior instructor pilot for the unit.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch. (NY National Guard/TNS)

“His motivation and infectious personality made him a great soldier,” said the National Guard in a statement. He is survived by his wife, Teressa DaGama.

The youngest victim was identified as Prial, a Rochester resident who earned a commission at West Point and began his service with the U.S. Army in 2012. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014-15, and served as a medical evacuation platoon leaders with the 82nd Airborne Division’s combat aviation brigade.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial. (NY National Guard/Released)

Prial was honored during his career with eight military awards, including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and was described by colleagues as “extremely humble and family-centric.”

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