North Attleboro man killed in Afghanistan
BY AMY DEMELIA and RICK FOSTERMonday, October 26, 2009 1:39 PM EDT
Print NORTH ATTLEBORO - A North Attleboro military pilot was among those killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan today.
Marine Capt. Kyle VanDeGiesen, a 1998 North Attleboro High School graduate, was killed in one of two separate helicopter crashes that occurred in Afghanistan, his family confirmed.
"It is with sadness today that we learned that our son, brother and husband Marine Capt. Kyle R. VanDeGiesen was killed today in the line of duty in Afghanistan," his family said in a statement. "He fulfilled his life long dream of becoming a marine helicopter pilot, protecting his family and serving his country."
The two helicopter crashes involved a total of three choppers, two of which collided in midair in the south of the country, and a third that went down in the wake of a firefight in Afghanistan's west, according to the NATO forces and American officials. It is not yet clear which crash killed VanDeGiesen.
VanDeGiesen, who was quarterback of the North Attleboro High School football team and 2002 graduate of St. Anselm College, had been stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif. In addition to his wife Megan, his daughter Avery and a soon-to-be-born son, VanDeGiesen is survived by his parents Ruth Ann and Calvin VanDeGiesen; his brothers Ryan and Christian; and his sister Caitlin.
Funeral arrangements are still being made and will be announced later this week, his family said.
Vandegiesen was well-known in the community, which reacted with shock and devastation as news of his death began circulating around town.
"He was a great kid," said family friend Sandy Vandette. "Our sons played football together. Kyle was the quarterback and Mark was the wide receiver. Kyle was always determined, focused and well-liked. He always knew he wanted to fly helicopters. It's so sad because he was such a wonderful kid. You hear on the news about people getting killed overseas and you pray for them, but you never expect it to hit home here in North Attleboro. It's really hard."
Town Administrator Mark Fisher worked as a trainer with the North Attleboro High School football team when Vandegiesen was the team's quarterback. His daughter Katie attended school with Kyle.
"Everyone in the community that knew Kyle over the years is just shocked and stricken by this tragedy," Fisher said. "Everyone is absolutely devastated. He was an outstanding young kid. I hate to use the word kid- he was always a gentleman and truly a bright shining star."
VanDeGiesen's death came on one of the deadliest days for troops in Afghanistan.
Fourteen Americans- 11 troops and three drug agents- were killed in the helicopter crashes Monday, the deadliest day for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in more than four years.
In the one crash, a helicopter went down in the west of the country after leaving the scene of a firefight, killing 10 Americans - seven troops and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Eleven American troops, one U.S. civilian and 14 Afghans were also injured.
In a separate incident, two U.S. Marine helicopters - one UH-1 and an AH-1 Cobra - collided in flight before sunrise over the southern province of Helmand, killing four American troops and wounding two more, Marine spokesman Maj. Bill Pelletier said. Hostile fire was ruled out in the midair collision, which killed a total of four American troops and injured two others, but the cause of the other crash was not immediately clear.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down a Western helicopter today in Afghanistan's northwest, but it was not clear whether that was the same incident the military described.
It was the heaviest single-day loss of life since June 28, 2005, when 16 U.S. troops on a special forces helicopter died when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents. The casualties also mark the first DEA deaths in Afghanistan since it began operations there in 2005.