Soldier Crashed Helicopter Before Running to and Crashing a Second in 2022 Suicide, Investigators Find
2023/07/04

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Military.com has obtained details from an investigation into a tragic incident that occurred in 2022 involving an Army officer. According to the investigation, Captain James Bellew crashed one Black Hawk helicopter and then proceeded to run to another, which he subsequently crashed, resulting in a large explosion and his own death. The investigation concluded that it was a suicide.

The incident took place at a Fort Stewart airfield in Georgia. Emergency crews responded to the first crash, and while they were assessing the situation, they heard a second aircraft explode. Captain Bellew, aged 26, was announced to have died in the incident, but no further details were initially provided.

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Redacted sections of the investigation revealed that Bellew had made inquiries the day before the crashes about life insurance coverage for a soldier's family after suicide and the financial liability of a family for damages to Army equipment. Bellew's roommates also reported that he had questioned whether someone could access an aircraft unnoticed. On the morning of the incident, air traffic controllers witnessed sparks on the tarmac, indicating helicopter blades hitting the surface. One controller observed Bellew running from the first crashed helicopter to the second before it took off and subsequently crashed.

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Bellew's romantic partner had contacted the Red Cross before the incident, expressing concerns about his intentions to end his life. Messages from friends and family, as well as self-help reading material and a handwritten note with affirmations, were found among Bellew's belongings after his death. The investigation concluded in August 2022 and stated that Bellew had no prior history of diagnosed mental illness or suicidal ideation.

The incident highlights the ongoing struggle the Army faces in identifying and providing adequate treatment for soldiers with mental health issues. With a shortage of mental health counselors and varying access to resources across different bases, the Army is working to address these challenges.

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However, there is currently no clear policy on identifying suicidal ideation or implementing servicewide intervention systems.

Captain Bellew was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He had been stationed at Fort Stewart since 2018 and previously served in South Korea. As an aeromedical evacuation officer, he conducted medical evacuations, including transporting critically ill COVID-19 patients. Bellew received awards such as the Army Achievement Medal, Army Aviator Badge, and Expert Field Medical Badge.

For veterans and service members experiencing a mental health emergency, resources such as the Veteran Crisis Line are available for immediate support.

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