August 22, 2007 - Posted at 10:16 p.m. CDT
CARUTHERSVILLE, MO - A tragedy tonight in Region 8 as word spreads that a soldier was among 14 killed Wednesday when a Black Hawk helicopter went down in northern Iraq.
Specialist E-4 Rickey Bell was a gunner on the Black Hawk that the military says went down because of mechanical problems and not hostile fire.
"He used to like to change seats on me a lot, he would always change seats in class," said Cathy Montgomery, Bell's sixth grade teacher.
"We always used to go mudding together on the island and we used to see who could get their truck stuck first and we used to see who had the baddest truck or whatever. We had a lot of memories together; we went riding 4-wheelers. We did everything together," said Bell's lifelong best friend Thomas Guest.
A 2005 graduate of Caruthersville High School, Bell had just turned 21 years old.
"I was listening to the news and I heard the tragedy of the helicopter crash and I thought, oh how sad, all those families loosing their loved ones. Not even knowing that it was actually a former student and a friend of the family," said family friend and freshman teacher Dona Clark.
The Pentagon says the Black Hawk helicopter was one of two taking part in a night-time operation. The crash is the worst single-day death toll in Iraq since January and the worst helicopter crash for Americans in the last two years.
"I think it will bring the people together. It's always bad when a young person loses their life and you never think it will happen here," said Montgomery.
"There's been a lot of people die and now we have somebody from Caruthersville who have died and he's a really good friend to a lot of people here and everybody knows him, so it's really sad," said Guest.
Flags fly at half staff as a community comes together to mourn the loss of Specialist Bell.
"It makes me real proud that he was serving his country and doing what he loved to do. You know it's sad but it makes it a little bit better knowing that he wasn't over there wanting to come home or anything, he was really loving it," said Guest.