Carroll County soldier killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

An Army officer from Eldersburg was among five soldiers killed in a helicopter crash earlier this week in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said late Saturday.

Capt. Sara M. Knutson, 27, died Monday in Kandahar, the Pentagon said in a release. Knutson was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Knutson, a 2003 graduate of Liberty High School and a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is the first Marylander killed in Afghanistan this year.

NATO reported the crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Southern Afghanistan earlier this week. Initial reports indicated there was no enemy activity in the area at the time, the coalition said.

The incident remains under investigation, the Pentagon said Saturday.

Also killed were Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass, 27, of Estherville, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson, 27, of Franklin, La.; Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, of Naples, Fla.; and Spec. Zachary L. Shannon, 21, of Dunedin, Fla.

All, like Knutson, were assigned to elements of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield.

According to the U.S. Military Academy alumni website, Knutson married a former Black Hawk pilot in November and deployed to Afghanistan in January. She had served previously at Fort Wainwright in Alaska and deployed on a humanitarian mission to Pakistan.

The website, which identifies her as Sara Marie (Knutson) Cullen, said the helicopter crash Monday occurred during a training mission in heavy rain.

The crash and the deaths of two special operations forces shot by an Afghan policeman made Monday the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year, accounting for half the 14 troops killed in 2013 so far.

Knutson was one of two service academy graduates from Maryland killed in air crashes on Monday.

Navy Lt. j.g. Valerie Cappelaere Delaney, 26, a 2009 Naval Academy graduate from Ellicott City, died when the EA-6B Prowler she was piloting crashed during training near Spokane, Wash.

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