Georgiana soldier killed in training exercise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Georgiana man was one of three soldiers killed when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Enumclaw, Washington on Thursday night.

Chief Warrant Officer II Patrick J. Paige, 32, of Georgiana died in the accident, along with Chief Warrant Officer II James E. Whitehead, 33, of Hawaii, and Sgt. Thomas L. Clarkston, 25, of Indiana.

The three men were assigned to D Troop, 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, and were stationed at Fort Lewis.

An Army spokesman at Fort Lewis told The Advocate that an investigation into what caused the accident is still on going.

The Army identified the three men on Christmas Eve.

&#8220It's just really an unfortunate accident,” said the spokesman. &#8220The unit was scheduled to go to Iraq in either the spring or summer of next year and this was just a routine training mission.”

The Advocate was unable to speak to Paige's parents prior to going to press, but Sherri Paige, assistant city clerk for the City of Georgiana and a cousin of the deceased, said the family was still shocked by the news of Paige's death.

Paige was a graduate of Georgiana High School and had served in the Army since 1995 according to officials.

Sherri said her cousin leaves behind a wife and five children.

&#8220This has been devastating for Patrick's family. It's hard for them to even talk about it,” Paige said on Tuesday afternoon. &#8220We don't know all the details yet, but we do know the plans are to bury him here in Georgiana. His wife still has to travel here from Washington.”

An eyewitness to the account told The News Tribune in Washington that the helicopter flew low over his home just before hitting a cluster of trees and going down.

He said his house was shaken by the force of the explosion.

County Commissioner Jerry Hartin said he was saddened by news of Paige's death. He said his wife taught Paige in kindergarten.

&#8220It is always tragic when we lose one of our servicemen,” said Hartin. &#8220He (Paige) left Georgiana and made a success of himself and gave his life in service to his country.”