The Pentagon has identified the two U.S. Air Force pilots killed on Monday when their E-11A aircraft crashed in a Taliban-controlled area in central Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, of Yigo, Guam, and Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, of Hudson, New Hampshire, died Monday. Voss was assigned to the Headquarters Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia and Phaneuf was assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
Their remains and the aircraft’s flight data recorder were recovered from the crash site by U.S. military personnel on Tuesday, who later destroyed the remnants of the aircraft, according to a statement from U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
The statement released on Tuesday reiterated that there were no indications that the crash was caused by enemy fire.
A mechanical issue is believed to have caused the E-11A to crash, a defense official said. A second official told ABC News that the pilots had declared an in-flight emergency.
“It’s really hard to describe how sad we are at the loss of two great Airmen. Lt. Col. Paul Voss was our brother and teammate,” said Gen Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, said in a statement. “The men and women of our Air Force knowingly put themselves in harm’s way, and I’m thankful for great Americans like them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their family members and our fellow Airmen during this difficult time.”
Holmes also indicated that Voss was on a voluntary deployment to Afghanistan.
Col. David A. Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said in a separate statement that Phaneuf’s death was a “tragic loss to the Air Force and our Ellsworth Family.”
“Every uniformed and civilian Airman assigned to Ellsworth is a valuable member of our team and this Airman will be greatly missed by all,” the statement continued.
Several factors delayed the recovery of the bodies, including weather conditions and security precautions that were taken in order to reach the location of the crash, which was in a Taliban stronghold south of Kabul, one defense official said. Afghan forces secured the area, allowing the U.S. military to conduct the recovery operations, the official added.
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In the aftermath of the crash, the Taliban said they had shot down the aircraft — a claim rebutted by spokesperson Col. Sonny Leggett in a statement on Monday. He also called Taliban claims that additional aircraft had crashed “false.”
Two 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers were killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, while conducting combat operations in Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Jan. 11. They were later identified as Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia, and Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon of Joliet, Illinois.
ABC News’ James Meek and Abby Cruz contributed to this report.
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