Soldier's Suicide Involved 2 Helicopter Crashes

Report reveals tragedy at Georgia's Fort Stewart as Army adjusts its mental health care
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2023 8:28 AM CDT
Soldier's Suicide Involved 2 Helicopter Crashes
A Georgia National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 78th Aviation Troop Command prepares to land at the Georgia Garrison Training Center at Fort Stewart on May 4, 2016.   (Wikimedia/Black Hawk Landing)

An Army officer crashed a Black Hawk helicopter in an attempt to kill himself but, failing to do so, ran to a second helicopter, which he subsequently launched and fatally crashed. That's according to a redacted investigation report released Wednesday, more than a year after the March 2022 incident at an airfield in Fort Stewart, Georgia. The report, obtained by through a public records request, notes air traffic controllers spotted sparks from helicopter blades hitting the tarmac in the early hours of March 30. Emergency crews were examining the crash site—from which an air traffic controller had spotted a person running toward a second helicopter—when the second chopper crashed and exploded, killing Capt. James Bellew, a 26-year-old aeromedical evacuation officer.

The Army announced Bellew's death on March 31, 2022, but did not reveal the circumstances. According to the report, Bellew's significant other had notified the Red Cross after receiving messages and a call from Bellew indicating he would take his own life. An Army investigation revealed his family was concerned for his mental health. It also revealed that the day before the suicide, Bellow had made "casual" inquiries about whether a soldier's family would receive life insurance and would be held liable for damage to Army equipment in the event of a suicide. He had also asked roommates whether "someone could access an aircraft alone without anyone noticing," investigators said, per

Military suicide deaths increased 44% between 2015 and 2020, though there was a drop in 2021 with 519 deaths. The Defense Department says it's working to tackle the problem, including through "addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking." Yet the Army "has no clear policy on identifying suicidal ideation or servicewide systems on intervention," per Bellew had no history of suicidal ideation or diagnosed mental illness. The same month he died, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin formed a committee to investigate how to prevent suicide in the military. He has since moved to expand the availability of behavioral health care. If you're experiencing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. To access the Military and Veterans Crisis Line, dial 988 then press 1. (More US Army stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.