By Jenny Berg
Minnesota lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation this week to rename three post offices in honor of the National Guardsmen who died in a helicopter crash near St. Cloud in December 2019.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Michelle Fischbach, introduced companion bills to rename post offices in Avon, Perham and Winsted, according to Klobuchar's office.
Three Minnesota National Guardsmen — Kort M. Plantenberg, 28, of Avon; Charles P. Nord, 30, of Perham; and James A. Rogers Jr., 28, of Winsted — died during a routine maintenance flight.
The first engine of the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter failed and the second engine was in the idle setting, causing the helicopter to crash in a line of trees in a snowy Stearns County farm field about 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud.
The legislation would rename the Avon post office in honor of Platenberg, Perham in honor of Nord and Winsted in honor of Rogers.
Klobuchar said renaming the post offices "will pay tribute to their legacies and help Minnesotans keep their memories alive for generations to come."
A summary of an investigation released last year revealed multiple factors led to the accident, including the incorrect installation of the hydromechanical unit in the first engine.
The Black Hawk disappeared at about 2 p.m. on Dec. 5 after taking off from the St. Cloud aviation facility. According to emergency dispatch from Stearns County, the helicopter's crew sent a mayday alert nine minutes after takeoff.
A few hours after the crash, law enforcement spotted the wreckage using thermal imaging cameras.
"With this legislation, we hope to honor their legacy and pay tribute to their service," Smith said. "Our hearts go out to their family and friends on this tragic anniversary."