Seven peacekeeping troops killed in Egypt helicopter crash

AvatarBy Dan Parsons | November 12, 2020

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 34 seconds.

Seven uniformed members of the mission enforcing the Israeli-Egypt peace agreement were killed when a helicopter crashed during a routine mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Nov. 12.

Reports from the region identify the aircraft as a UH-60 Black Hawk, but the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) has not said what aircraft crashed. The MFO has confirmed that eight uniformed members were involved in the crash near Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, a popular tourist destination. 

U.S. Army Soldiers deployed to Egypt with Task Force Sinai work alongside members of the Air Force to unload a UH-60 Black Hawk from the belly of a C-17 Globemaster III Nov. 21, during a mission in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs

Five U.S. citizens, one French and one Czech member of the MFO were killed. Another U.S. citizen survived and was medically evacuated to Israel, according to the MFO. The Department of Defense has identified the American victims as Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31 of Katy, Texas; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, of Fayetteville, North Carolina; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, of Marlborough, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, of Painesville, Ohio; and Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, of Watseka, Illinois.

In his third day in office, Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Chris Miller tweeted from the official Defense Department account: “We are saddened by the loss of 6 US and 2 partner nation service members in a helicopter crash in the Sinai Peninsula operating with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).”

“Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions who have defended our nation, and today we are reminded of the last full measure our warriors may pay for their service,” Miller tweeted. “I extend @DeptofDefense‘s condolences to the families, friends, and teammates of these service members.”

The Department of Defense soon afterward tweeted that the initial operational reports of the loss of six U.S. service members were incorrect, and that instead five were killed and one hospitalized.

An investigation by the MFO is underway into the cause of the crash, which it said “appears to be mechanical in nature.” Headquartered in Rome, the MFO is an international peacekeeping organization, created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel. More than 1,100 military and civilian personnel from 13 countries make up the MFO, established in 1981 to enforce the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

The U.S.-led MFO has in the past few years been actively fighting Islamic State terrorists in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but the MFO said there is no indication that hostile fire caused the crash.

“At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” the MFO said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support of Egypt and Israel in the recovery effort.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with the corrected number of victims and the names of the U.S. service members who were killed in the crash.

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