Utah crash that killed 12 special forces troops to be remembered Saturday
Great Salt Lake • Chopper went down off Antelope Island.
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Twenty years ago on Monday, 12 Army Rangers and Air Force special operations troops perished in a helicopter crash just north of Antelope Island.

On Saturday, their families, friends and those who helped with the rescue and recovery will celebrate their memory with a rededication of a monument on Antelope Island.

A Kansas-based nonprofit called GallantFew Inc. is sponsoring the service from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the monument, which is at the Antelope Island State Park marina at the end of the causeway that connects the island to Syracuse. Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to be among the speakers.

The service and rededication of the monument also will be the culmination of a 775-mile bike ride by a former Ranger medic, Danny Cox, who was back in a hangar at Hill Air Force Base the night of the crash, awaiting the next phase of a training mission.

He began his ride at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and will be escorted the last few miles by motorcycle riders who will rally at Timpanogos Harley Davidson in Linden beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.

GallantFew executive director Karl Monger, another former Ranger, was in the air above the Great Salt Lake that night, listening to the crash and recovery operations on tactical radio.

Both Monger and Cox lost friends in the Oct. 29 crash of the Air Force MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, a modified Blackhawk, that went down at 9:11 p.m. in a rainstorm.

It was the last chopper in a four-helicopter formation that was carrying Army and Air Force special operations troops from HAFB to the Army's Dugway Proving Ground as part of a training exercise.

A 1993 incident report said five Army aircraft left on the same route the night of the crash, but turned back because of poor weather. The second group apparently did not get the news.

The five Rangers were from bases in Georgia and the seven airmen were based in Florida and North Carolina.

The helicopter hit the water at 150 mph, exploding on impact 300 feet north of the causeway, just off the northeast tip of the island. Three crew members and nine passengers died immediately.

The only survivor — Air Force Maj. Stephan J. Laushine, the pilot —was rescued by three Army Rangers who paddled inflatable kayaks, through flames and on choppy water to the wreckage, according to a description of the incident on the monument.

Park manager Jeremy Shaw said the park has added curbs, new landscape rock and cleaned up the monument in preparation for the 20th anniversary commemoration.

The original monument was spearheaded by Frank Mishak of Clear Lake, Iowa, whose son, Army Ranger Sgt. Blaine A. Mishak, died in the crash.

Mishak will be among the family members traveling to Utah for the service, said Heidi Benson of Midway. She and other members of the Divine Sisterhood of Sparta, comprised of mothers of Army Rangers, are organizing the event.

"We want all military families to know: You are not forgotten," Benson said.

More information is available at www.aride2remember.com

kmoulton@sltrib.com