Jan. 21 (UPI) -- A medical evacuation helicopter conducting a routine training mission in New York has crashed, killing three National Guardsmen on board, officials said.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office confirmed three Guardsmen on board the helicopter died after the aircraft crashed in to a farm field in the town of Mendon, N.Y., at around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Sheriff Todd Baxter of Monroe County told reporters during a press conference Wednesday night that the New York National Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration were en route to the site to investigation the crash along with local law enforcement.
"This is a burden. This is a heavy, heavy burden upon all of us. These are our freedom providers. And, again, just showing again that freedom is not free. We lost three great Americans today in the service of our country," he said.
The cause of the crash was unknown but Baxter said there were reports that the helicopter was flying lower than normal and that the engine was producing sputtering sounds before it went down.
Mendon Fire Chief Peter Kester told reporters that the aircraft was engulfed in flames when first responders arrived at the scene.
The crash site is limited but the debris field, Baxter said, encompasses "a few city blocks."
The New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs said in a statement that the New York National Guard UH-60 helicopter was based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport.
The three Guardsmen were assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, it said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed flags on all state buildings to be lowered to half staff on Thursday, stating he was "devastated" to learn of the crash.
"National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honorable heroes who we will never forget," he said in a statement.
Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-N.Y., also offered his condolences to the families of the deceased National Guardsmen.
"My prayers are with the loved ones of these service members lost," he said in a statement. "I am closely monitoring the situation as details emerge, and stand ready to provide assistance in any way I can."