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Fairfax man killed in military helicopter crash in Florida

Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, of Fairfax, Virginia, was killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise along the Florida Panhandle. (Louisiana National Guard)

WASHINGTON — A man from Fairfax, Virginia, was among the four Louisiana National Guard members killed during a nighttime training exercise along the Florida Panhandle last week.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, 26, died when the Black Hawk helicopter he was riding in crashed into the Santa Rosa Sound in dense fog Tuesday night. He and three other flight crew members plus seven Marines were killed when the helicopter crashed into about 25 feet of water in the channel of the sound.

The three other members of the flight crew were from Louisiana. Piloting the helicopter were Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr. of Delhi, 37, and Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother of Alexandria, 44. Both were decorated veteran pilots. Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron, 40, of Thibodaux, was also killed along with seven active-duty Marines, including a master sergeant from Williamsburg, Virginia.

Florich joined the Louisiana National Guard in 2007 as a Black Hawk repairer, the Guard said in a statement.

He was deployed in the wake of the BP oil spill and during Hurricane Isaac.

“Tom was full of life, and his personality could light the room,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Marquez, a platoon sergeant.

This image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps shows an undated photo of Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders, 33. Friday, March 13, 2015, military officials released the names of the Marines killed. All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, at Camp Lejeune. Master Sgt. Saunders was one of the seven Marines killed when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed in dense fog during a training mission in Florida. (AP Photo/US Marine Corps)
This image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps shows an undated photo of Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders, 33, who was one of the seven Marines killed. (AP Photo/US Marine Corps)

Florich is survived by his wife, father and stepmother. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.

Military burials with full honors were being planned for the dead, said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

Across Louisiana flags will fly at half-staff until sunset March 20 to honor the guard members and Marines who died in the crash March 10.

The Marines who died were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion. Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders of Williamsburg, Virginia, was also among the dead.

Born in Bonn, Germany, Saunders, 33, enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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