It has been confirmed that three Minnesota National Guard soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash south of St. Cloud Thursday afternoon.
Gov. Tim Walz first confirmed the tragic news during a press conference that took place nearly six hours after radio communications with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was lost.
The Minnesota National Guard confirmed that the Black Hawk took off around 2:05 p.m., with it crashing approximately 10 minutes later in a field south of Cold Spring.
"My heart breaks for the families, the friends and fellow soldiers," said Walz, who served in the Guard for more than two decades. "The coming days will be dark and difficult."
The identities of the soldiers have not been released.
"Our Minnesota National Guard family is devastated by the deaths of these soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard. "Our priority right now is ensuring that our families are taken care of."
The aircraft departed from St. Cloud Regional Airport and crashed after crew onboard issued a "mayday" alert moments before crashing, according to emergency dispatch audio.
The crash site is near Marty, an unincorporated town southwest of St. Cloud Regional Airport.
St. Paul Fire Department sent a rescue team to join the Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team (MART), in addition to the Minnesota State Patrol sending aircraft to assist in the search.
This remains a developing story and we will update it when new information is released.