Oregon man among 17 killed in Black Hawk crash
11/17/03ASHBEL S. GREEN, The Oregonian
A Vernonia High School graduate who deployed to Iraq less than three weeks ago was one of the 17 soldiers killed in Saturday's
helicopter crash in the northern city of Mosul.
Warrant Officer Erik C. Kesterson, 29, a member of the 101st Airborne Division stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., piloted
one of the two Black Hawk helicopters.
His father said he was carrying a rapid response team to help ground troops under fire.
"His aircraft was hit. They're not sure what it was," Clayton Kesterson said Sunday. He was told of his son's death Saturday
The cause of the crash remains under investigation, Department of Defense officials said Sunday.
Another victim of the crash, Spc. William D. Dusenbery, 30, was married to an Oregon woman and lived in the Grants Pass
area from about 1991 to 2001. He and his wife, Rochelle, separated several years ago. She now lives in Arcata, Calif. The
couple has a daughter.
"He was trying to straighten his life out," his father-in-law, Neil Powers of Grants Pass, said of Dusenbery's decision
to join the Army.
Clayton Kesterson said his son joined the Marine Corps in 1993 after graduating from Vernonia, west of Portland.
Until then, he was mostly into cars.
"He was very mechanically inclined. He spent most of his time dealing with a '67 Charger," said Clayton Kesterson, a retired
United Airlines mechanic living in Independence southwest of Salem. "He didn't come into his own until he went into the Marine
Erik Kesterson spent eight years in the Marines as a crew chief and gunner on Huey and Cobra helicopters. Shortly before
he left the Marines, he was crew chief on a Huey that crashed in California. After the helicopter burst into flames, Erik
Kesterson pulled out seven men, his father said.
He was awarded the Marine Corps Medal of Heroism.
After the Marines, he went to work for McMinnville-based Evergreen Airlines. He sold aircraft parts.
But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks drew him back to the military.
"After 9/11, he got to feeling that he needed to do more. So he applied for the Army warrant officer program," Clayton
That's where he learned to fly Black Hawks. He left for Iraq on Oct. 29.
Clayton Kesterson and his wife, Mary, visited Erik and his girlfriend, Christine Hogan, shortly before he left Fort Campbell
for Iraq. Erik had bought a house in nearby Tennessee.
"He's a great guy. Everybody liked him," Clayton Kesterson said. "He's got a great sense of humor. He was very professional.
He was born to be military. Duty for our country. That was Erik."
Before Erik left, he and his father were in the process of building full-size replicas of 14 World War I fighter planes.
Five have been cleared to fly by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"It was a lot of fun. A lot of work," Clayton Kesterson said. "By the summer, I hope to have them all in the air."
In addition to his parents, Erik Kesterson is survived by three step-brothers and a grandmother.
Alex Pulaski of The Oregonian staff contributed to this report. Ashbel S. "Tony" Green: 221-8202 or firstname.lastname@example.org