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US Army identifies 5 killed in Sinai chopper crash, including expectant father

Kyle Robert McKee’s wife set to give birth ‘at any time,’ but he was unable to be with her due to pandemic; Multinational Force and Observers aircraft went down last week in Egypt

The remains of US soldiers killed in a helicopter crash on a Sinai peacekeeping mission arrive back in the United States, November 17, 2020 (Screen grab)
The remains of US soldiers killed in a helicopter crash on a Sinai peacekeeping mission arrive back in the United States, November 17, 2020 (Screen grab)

Five American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash last week while on a peacekeeping mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula included one who left behind a wife pregnant with their daughter.

The soldiers were part of an international force that monitors the four-decade-old Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. The Multinational Force and Observers said the soldiers were on a routine mission when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed last Thursday near Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Egyptian resort on the Red Sea.

A French peacekeeper and Czech officer also were killed, and a sixth American on the helicopter was injured.

The US Army said the cause of the crash is still under investigation. On the day of the crash, the MFO said at that point there were no signs of an attack and it appeared to have been an accident.

The US military identified the dead as Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, from Katy, Texas; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, from Fayetteville, North Carolina; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, from Marlborough, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, from Painesville, Ohio; and Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, from Watseka, Illinois.

McKee, who’d served as a crew chief in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, was a father of two boys, 11 and 3. His wife, Nikki, is due to deliver their daughter “at any time,” said McKee’s father, Steve McKee.

Because of the pandemic, Kyle McKee was unable to be with his wife for the birth, and remained on duty in Egypt, his father said.

The surviving American was taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

“An IDF helicopter carrying elite search and rescue soldiers… evacuated an injured American MFO peacekeeper to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment,” the Israeli military said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement after the crash that the servicemen “lost their lives while bravely protecting the stability, security, and peace of our region.”

The peacekeeping force was set up by Israel and Egypt to supervise parts of their 1979 historic peace treaty after the United Nations did not approve a peacekeeping force for the Sinai.

Illustrative: Multinational peacekeepers participate in a casualty evacuation training exercise during their nine-month rotation in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, January 22, 2016. (Sgt. William Tanner, 2d Cavalry Regiment, US military)

Though the force was established as an alternative to a UN mission, it has consistently had significant international backing, notably from the United States. It includes personnel from 13 countries with over 400 Americans serving in the 1,100-strong international outfit.

Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is facing a hardened insurgency affiliated with the Islamic State group in the north of the restive region while the south boasts touristic resort towns by the Red Sea, near where the crash happened.

The MFO currently has more than 1,100 troops, including from Australia, the United States, Canada and France, and receives funding from Egypt, Israel and the US.

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