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Memorial to Antelope Island helicopter crash rededicated

Published October 28, 2012 5:32 pm

20 years ago, 12 men died when Air Force helicopter crashed just off the island.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Antelope Island • Katie Scholl was not quite 7 years old when her father, Mark Scholl, and 11 other Air Force special operations forces troops and Army Rangers died on a cold, rainy October night, just off the tip of this island.

So it was something of an adult's understanding that she sought Saturday when she traveled here, alone, to see the rededication of a monument to her father and those who died with him.

Twelve men died on Oct. 29, 1992, when their Air Force MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, flying without lights, in low cloud cover and little visibility, got too close to the water and crashed just 100 yards off the northeast corner of the island. Only the pilot, Air Force Maj. Stephan J. Laushine, survived.

The troops were part of a training exercise, the last of four helicopters in a group flying from Hill Air Force Base to the Army's Dugway Proving Ground.

None of the men were from Utah. They came from Army posts and Air Force bases in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida and were, as organizer Karl Monger said, the "cream of the crop" whose deaths left a void in the nation's special operations forces.

Their families and friends came from across the country Saturday to remember their shared tragedy on a cool but sunny day, far different from the night 20 years ago.

"I just had a desire to come out and deal with it," said a tearful Scholl after a moving ceremony in which colleagues of the fallen men and one of the Rangers' fathers spoke.

Dozens of Patriot Guard Riders holding American flags flanked the path leading to the monument after escorting Ranger Danny Cox, who rode his bicycle more than 770 miles from Phoenix, for the event. Cox, a retired Ranger medic, was the last person to speak to those on the ill-fated flight.

"When you think about it, you think it's only the family that's impacted," Scholl, now a chemist in South Carolina, said. "But I've learned there are so many other people impacted by this and I appreciate all their love and support."

Scholl's father was 32-year-old Air Force Tsgt. Mark Scholl. One of those especially happy to see the younger Scholl was Jeff Shackleford, a retired Air Force combat controller and a friend to Scholl's father and two of the other men who died.

Shackleford was still back at HAFB when word of the crash arrived. He got a bus, loaded it with other combat controllers and sped to the island. In the dark and sleet, all they could do was look over the water.

"It was miserable," said Shackleford.

"You couldn't see the bird. It caught fire, but it went out pretty quick. I was here all night," said Shackleford.

Three Rangers using inflatable kayaks that night were able to rescue the only survivor.

Saturday was Shackleford's first time back to Antelope Island in 20 years. He lives in Virginia.

Linda VandenBosch, of Jerome, Idaho, has stopped many times at the monument and on Saturday brought flowers for her younger brother, Air Force Sgt. Mark G. Lee. He died at age 24.

"He was doing what he loved to do; he'd been all over the world," she said.

Lee left behind a wife and 3-month-old daughter.

Frank and Marlys Mishak, who spent the better part of two years getting donations for the $200,000 monument, first dedicated in 1994, returned to the island Saturday. Their 22-year-old son, Sgt. Blaine Mishak, was one of the Rangers killed. He was the baby of the family.

"It never goes away," said Marlys Mishak. "You just go on."

The event was sponsored by GallantFew Inc., a nonprofit that Monger founded to help veterans.

kmoulton@sltrib.com