Two people with Capital Region ties killed in crash of military helicopter at southern border

Local heroes killed in Texas helicopter crash

Two Capital Region residents were killed and one severely injured in a crash of a military helicopter near the southern border on Friday.

Two Capital Region residents were killed and one severely injured in a crash of a military helicopter near the southern border on Friday.

The crash killed Casey Frankoski, a Rensselaer native and graduate of Columbia High School, and New York State Trooper John Grassia III, of Albany County, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A third person from the Capital Region was severely hurt. He is Rensselaer High School graduate Jacob Pratt, according to the Times Union.

Photo of Casey Frankoski/Courtesy Mayor Mike Stammel
Photo of Trooper John Grassia/Troopers PBA

The UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed Friday afternoon while conducting aviation operations near Rio Grande City, Texas, according to a statement from the military’s Joint Task Force North. Two soldiers and one U.S. Border Patrol agent were killed and one soldier was injured, officials said.

Rensselaer Mayor Michael Stammel posted to his Facebook page that Frankoski “was not only an excellent student but also excelled in sports and community service before joining the New York National Guard. Casey comes from a family deeply rooted in public service, and her legacy as an American hero resonates throughout our community.”

She is also the daughter of retired Rensselaer Police Chief James Frankoski.

Grassia joined State Police in 2022 and was assigned to Troop G, according to a post by the New York State Troopers PBA.

The PBA released a statement on Grassia’s death Saturday evening, saying, “Trooper Grassia, who was dedicated to serving and protecting not only the citizens of New York State but also the citizens of the entire United States, will be remembered for his ultimate sacrifice.”

Stammel ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and is asking for prayers.

Reached by phone, the mayor said the tragedy is hard to believe and the community is rallying around the Frankoski family. “We’ll just sit back and help the family in any way that we can and do our best to remember her for the brave American that she was and the person who grew up around here and we all thought so much of,” he said.

“We join with many across our county in mourning the passing of Casey Frankoski. Casey represents the best of our nation, a young woman who volunteered to serve and defend her country and who sadly died while in service to the United States,” said County Executive Steve McLaughlin in his post.

“We also extend sincere condolences to the Grassia family and recognize their service. We pray for the recovery of the injured crew member from our county,” McLaughlin continued.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R – Schuylerville) released the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to the families of the New York Army National Guard soldiers and the U.S. Border Patrol Agent that were killed in Friday’s helicopter crash on the Southern Border. We also pray for the full recovery of the New York soldier who was injured during the crash.

“These brave soldiers were deployed in support of Joint Task Force North to secure our Southern Border. This tragic loss is another reminder of the tremendous cost resulting from Joe Biden’s border crisis.

“The selfless and brave service of these New York soldiers will not be forgotten.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released this statement:

“I am devastated by the news that two brave members of the New York Army National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, were killed in a helicopter crash Friday afternoon along with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Chris Luna on the southwest border in Texas. I am also praying for the swift recovery of the National Guard Staff Sergeant Crew Chief who was critically injured in the incident. These National Guard members and USBP agent selflessly answered the call to serve their country, and their sacrifices will never be forgotten. I send my deepest condolences and prayers to their families, friends, and the Capital Region community mourning the loss of these heroes.” 

Check back at and on air for updates on this developing story.