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Schofield soldiers killed in Afghanistan crash identified

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 2:10 p.m. HST, Apr 23, 2012

The four Hawaii soldiers who died in Thursday's Black Hawk helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan have been identified, Stars and Stripes reported.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas S. Johnson, 27, of San Diego Calif., Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don C. Viray, 25, of Waipahu, Army Spc. Dean R. Shaffer, 23, of Pekin Ill., and Army Spc. Chris J. Workman,33, of Boise, Idaho, died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when their helicopter went down in Helmand province, the newspaper said.

At least two of the soldiers, Shaffer and Workman, were previously identified by family and friends as being Hawaii-based.

All were with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment out of Wheeler Army Airfield, Stars and Stripes said.

The newspaper had a reporter at a combat memorial for the four soldiers at Kandahar Airfield today and said it drew hundreds of soldiers who filled the seats inside and spilled out of a fabric clamshell structure.

Viray was described as a native Hawaiian and "push-up king" who entered into a competition with another soldier to do 1,000 push-ups in the shortest amount of time.

"Funny enough, he didn't like the ocean," Stars and Stripes reported friend and fellow chopper pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Neal saying.

"Once again, the tragedies of war have taken four from our Tropic Lightning Division, all of them Hawaii heroes; one of them, Hawaii born.  These brave Army airmen must never be forgotten.  Their contributions to our nation and to our world's security are beyond measurement.  Having watched the death and injury of my brothers in arms, I understand, too well, what this loss means to their fellow soldiers and families.  My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time," said Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said on Friday it appeared that bad weather was the principal cause of the accident.

He added that as with all such incidents, the crash remains under investigation until all possible details are determined.

"They're going to look at all factors, but right now it appears that weather was the principal cause," Kirby said.

He said defense officials are not aware of any enemy fire reported in the area where the crash took place.

The four deaths are the first for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, whose 2,600 Hawaii soldiers deployed in January for a year in Afghanistan.

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