MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday night that three Army National Guard soldiers were killed in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in Stearns County.

Minnesota National Guard officials say say the aircraft’s three-member crew lost contact with air traffic controllers at St. Cloud Army Aviation Facility at about 2:05 p.m. The crew was conducting a maintenance test flight.

A mayday call was put out, leading to the activation of the Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team (MART), which includes the assistance of St. Paul firefighters and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, which found the Black Hawk about 90 minutes after it went missing.

(credit: CBS)

The aircraft was found tangled in trees on a farm in Kimball, located about 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud.

Walz, a former Minnesota National Guard soldier, cancelled the lighting ceremony of the governor’s mansion Christmas tree Thursday evening to travel to St. Cloud.

“Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss, and the state of Minnesota is forever in debt of these warriors,” Walz said. “The coming days will be dark and difficult. The state of Minnesota stands at the ready to assist the families of all fallen heroes.”

The identities of the victims have not been released. A state lawmaker has said they were members of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Investigators from the Army Safety Center out of Fort Rucker in Alabama are expected to arrive Friday to begin investigating the cause of the crash.

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