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Tucson soldier declared dead in Yemen chopper crash

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Tucson soldier declared dead in Yemen chopper crash

  • Emil Rivera-Lopez
    DODEmil Rivera-Lopez

A soldier with Tucson ties has been declared dead by the Army, a week after he went missing in a Black Hawk helicopter crash off the coast of Yemen. Staff Sgt. Emil Rivera-Lopez, 31, had served in the military for 11 years, including in Afghanistan.

Rivera-Lopez was missing after an August 25 crash during a training exercise about 20 miles off the coast of Yemen, a war-wracked nation on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Five other soldiers from the helicopter were rescued.

The Defense Department announced Friday that he had been declared deceased after he was not found during a search.

Rivera-Lopez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He had lived in Tucson — a connection noted in a tweet from U.S. Sen. John McCain — and had most recently been living in Savannah, Ga., according to news reports.

Rivera-Lopez had been serving as a Black Hawk crew chief, and had received several service awards and decorations, including an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism medals, three bronze service stars, and an Overseas Service Ribbon, Army officials said.

A report from said that he was serving with the "elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The unit, known as the Night Stalkers, specializes in flying difficult nighttime missions, often ferrying ground special operations troops into battle."

"The military has a small number of troops deployed in Yemen to aid the fight against an al-Qaida group in the country. It has conducted ground raids this year against the terrorist group there, including an operation in late January in which Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed, and an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed after it crashed," said.

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