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Candlelight vigil planned for soldiers, border agent killed in South Texas helicopter crash

EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — A candlelight vigil is being held Monday night in Edinburg, Texas, the hometown of the Border Patrol agent who died along with two others in a helicopter crash Friday while they were patrolling the South Texas border.

Two members of the New York Army National Guard and Border Patrol Agent Chris Luna died when their UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed a field just north of the Rio Grande in the remote border town of La Grulla.

On Sunday, the National Guard Bureau identified the two fallen soldiers as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, of Rensselaer, New York, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, of Schenectady, New York.

Luna, who was stationed in Rio Grande City, was a 17-year veteran of the Border Patrol.

(Graphic by City of Edinburg)

Joint Task Force North said they were conducting what were described as “aviation operations” while supporting the federal Southwest border mission.

“This tragic event highlights the inherent risks faced by Border Patrol Agents every day and it reminds us of their courage and sacrifice. We mourn the loss of our brother Chris and we will honor him with dedication and distinction. Our focus is now with his family and the agents of RGC who displayed great courage and acts of heroism in attempting to save those involved in this tragic event,” said Luna’s boss, Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez.

Another National Guard member on board the helicopter, also was injured in the crash and was taken to a McAllen hospital, Border Report learned.

“We mourn alongside Agent Luna’s family, including his wife and two children, parents and brother. We will continue to provide them with strength and support from their CBP family. We will forever honor Chris’s service, and we will never forget his and family’s tremendous sacrifice,” said Troy Miller, Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner said. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire CBP workforce are with the U.S. Border Patrol and the National Guard, with the National Guardsman who is recovering from serious injuries, and with all impacted by this tragedy.”

The City of Edinburg is hosting the candlelight memorial at 7 p.m. at the Edinburg Amphitheater. It is open to the public and candles will be provided while supplies last.

“This event allows the Rio Grande Valley community to come together in remembrance during this difficult time to honor the lives and sacrifices of these brave individuals,” the city said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.

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