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Test pilots killed in helicopter crash were Marine reservists

Two Bell Helicopter test pilots killed in a crash earlier this month were nondrilling members of the Select Marine Corps Reserve who had deployed downrange several times.

Majs. Erik Boyce and Jason Grogan died in the July 6 crash, according to officials at Marine Corps Forces Reserve. Both men flew AH-1W Super Cobras in the Marine Corps. Boyce deployed in support of operations in Iraq five times. Grogan deployed in support of Iraq operations twice and to Afghanistan once.

On July 6, they were flying a Bell 525 Relentless helicopter, which went down south of Dallas in Ellis County, Texas. Bell Helicopter is working with federal aviation and safety officials to determine why the helicopter crashed, the company said in a statement.

"This is devastating for all of us at Bell Helicopter," the company statement says. "Right now our focus is on assisting the families of the two pilots and supporting our employees."

The company declined to provide information about the pilots.

Grogan and Boyce were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 Detachment A at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. Boyce was commissioned in May 2004 and became a major July 2013. Grogan received his commission in October 1997 and had served as a major since January 2008.

While on active-duty, Grogan and Boyce were assigned as AH-1W pilots to squadrons in Marine Aircraft Group 39 at Camp Pendleton, California, said Master Sgt. Katesha Washington, a spokeswoman for Marine Forces Reserve.

"Major Jason 'Frenchy' Grogan served with HMLA-169 'Vipers' from 2001-2006," Washington said in an email. "Major Erik 'Backstreet' Boyce served with HMLA-369 'Gunfighters' from 2005-2009."

After completing their fleet tours with MAG-39, both men went on to serve as test pilots for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, California, where they regularly flew Super Cobras, AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, Washington said.

Both men's military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal-Strike Flight, Iraq Campaign Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Boyce, 37, is survived by a 99-month-old daughter, according to KREM, the CBS-affiliated television station in Spokane, Washington.

"Erik was an incredibly humble man who always pointed to others who contributed to his success," Boyce's family said in a statement to KREM. "His family, friends, commanding officers, and most importantly his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Grogan, 43, has an 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, the Star-Telegram newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas, reported.

On the morning of the crash, his daughter sent him an email asking him to describe his day, the newspaper reported. He replied that he was "going to fly a big orange helicopter" but he would still be home on time.

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