PAINESVILLE, Ohio — A Painesville native was one of the five soldiers identified by the U.S. Army who were on a peacekeeping mission when they died in a helicopter crash in Egypt earlier this week.
According to the U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, of Painesville, died on Thursday when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter he was flying in over Sinai, Egypt crashed.
“It just didn't seem right. Didn’t seem real," McKee's father Steve said. “You want to get to the point where you think that I'm going to wake up and this going to be fine. It's all going to go away. But then you see a news report. You see a photo of him, the details of what happened and you know that it's not going to turn out any different."
McKee grew up in LeRoy Township and went to Riverside High School in Painesville.
“I've got one photo of Kyle when he was probably about three or four where he's standing in a little pedal car, but he had on a military uniform. And he always told us that he was going to go into military," Steve said.
The U.S. Army states that McKee enlisted in 2003 and had been in Egypt since July 2020. He previously served tours in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. His service continued his family's long legacy of military service.
“My father served in World War Two, served in Korea," Steve said. “I served all during the Vietnam era. Shane, his older brother was in Iraq."
McKee has a long list of accolades that include the "the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, Senior Aircrew Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the Air Assault Badge," the U.S. Army stated.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but authorities believe it is related to a mechanical malfunction.
Steve said he and his family are coping with the loss with help from their community. Neighbors mounted flags on their lawns to honor McKee.
“I know Kyle doesn’t regret a minute of what he did," Steve McKee said. “You have to take the good in life. And just keep going forward with that. And he’ll never be forgotten."
According to ABC News, the other Americans who were killed have been identified as:
- Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, from Katy, Texas
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, from Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, from Marlborough, Massachusetts
- Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, from Watseka, Illinois
The Associated Press reported that two other peacekeepers were also killed, and an eighth person was badly injured.
"It is with profound sadness that we mourn this tragic loss of life," said Col. David S. Sentell, commander of Task Force Sinai. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of our fallen during this most difficult time. They should know that their nation will continue to honor their sacrifice."
The U.S. Army states that the soldiers were part of the Multinational Force and Observers, which is a "multinational peacekeeping mission established in 1981 to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace."
Thirteen countries contribute troops to the force, with the U.S. providing the largest contingent.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted his condolences to McKee's family Saturday morning.
Fran and I are saddened to learn of the death of one of Ohio's @USArmy soldiers, Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee of Painesville. We offer our most sincere condolences to his family, friends, and fellow service members. https://t.co/xonuKUpLCK— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) November 14, 2020
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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