Rolla community honors local soldier dead in Kentucky helicopter crash

Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 10:27 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROLLA, Mo. (KMOV) — Community members are honoring the life of a local soldier lost in a tragic Kentucky helicopter crash.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32, is one of the nine soldiers who died Wednesday night when two helicopters crashed near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The 101st Airborne Division identified the soldiers Friday. The list included two soldiers from Missouri, Smith and Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Missouri.

“The loss of these soldiers will reverberate through our formations for years to come,” Maj. Gen. JP McGee said in a statement.

“We are blessed to live in the freest country in the history of planet earth, but we must remember that freedom relies on those who are willing to serve,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said. “Some who pay the ultimate price.”

In Smith’s hometown of Rolla, Missouri, neighbors say they are heartbroken for the family, including David Eldredge, who has family in the military.

“I just can’t imagine what they are going through.” Eldredge said.

It’s a loss being felt by others in the area too, like in nearby Saint James. Carole Teague said she didn’t know Smith, but says the loss is one that hits her heart hard.

Investigators are still looking into the crash.