Richard Block – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

From a contemporary press report:

A 26-year-old former Bergen County (New Jersey) resident who escaped unhurt during the US invasion of Panama was among 11 servicemen killed last week in the crash of two helicopters in a nighttime thunderstorm there.

“I prayed so hard, and I was so glad when the invasion was over – I figured he was safe now,” said Winifred Moncalieri-Russo, a longtime Northvale resident now of Spring Valley, New York, whose son, Richard Block, was killed in the crash. “It's your worst nightmare,” said Moncalieri-Russo, whose grieving has been tinged with frustration over a lack of information about the February 21, 1990 crash.

Warrant Officer Block had been stationed at Ft Kobbe, Panama, 2 months after grad from flight school when the US invaded the country December 20. For three days and nights, he flew a helicopter into combat zones, transporting soldiers and evacuating the wounded, he told his family. “When he came through combat and gave us a call and said, ‘I'm fine,' we all thanked God he made it,” said Block's aunt, Lorraine Maldonato of Northvale.

Last Wednesday, Block was co-piloting one of four helicopters on an air-assault training mission over jungles on the Atlantic coast of Panama when they ran into a heavy rainstorm about 9 pm. The mission was aborted, but two helicopters crashed, killing all aboard. The Army said an  investigation of the crash will take about 6 weeks.

Family members and friends recalled Block, who attended elementary school in Bergenfield before his family moved to Michigan, as a generous and extremely likable young man who was infatuated with flying. “He's always wanted to fly. Ever since he was old enough to talk, that's all he ever talked about,” his mother said. Block joined the Army at age 19. He enjoyed Army life and planned a career in the military, relatives said.

He met his wife, Kimberly, in the Army 5 years ago. Relatives here are planning a memorial service at St Anthony's Church in Northvale. The date of the service will be set as soon as the Army notifies the family when it will be returning Block's body to the US. Block is to be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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