Helicopter crash hits close to home

By The Daily Illini

Nathan Moore, former Champaign Centennial High School student was one of the 31 troops killed when a helicopter crashed Wednesday – the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began – during a sandstorm in Iraq.

Moore, son of Amber and Duane Moore and brother of Amanda, also attended Lincoln’s Challenge Academy.

Kevin Russell, senior in communications who also attended Centennial High School with the 21-year-old Moore, remembered playing baseball with him in sixth grade and hanging out with him during high school.

“He was gung-ho about the Marines … with bumper stickers on the car,” Russell said of the Marine.

Christopher Brown, one of the team leaders at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy, said he knew Moore when he was a cadet and described him as a “really great kid.”

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“He really came into his own when placed into a leadership position,” Brown said.

Peter Schmitt, a teacher at Centennial High School who had Moore as a student, called him “a real nice kid.”

“He was just a nice, quiet, normal kid,” Schmitt said.

Champaign city employees began raising donations Thursday for the Moore family.

The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter carrying Moore and others from the 1st Marine Division crashed around 1:20 a.m., local time, near the town of Rutbah, about 220 miles west of Baghdad, according to reports from the Associated Press.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said the helicopter was on a mission in support of the Jan. 31 elections. A search-and-rescue team investigated the cause of the crash.

“The first free election in Iraqi history will occur in no small part due to the efforts of the members of the 1st Marine Division who have sacrificed for this historic day,” said Major Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, in a message to the families on Wednesday.

Services for Moore have not been planned yet.