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Ducey orders flags at half-staff for fallen Tucson soldier

(U.S. Army Photo)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags to fly at half-staff in Arizona on Tuesday to honor an Army soldier from Tucson who died on a noncombat mission.

“At just 31 years old, Staff Sgt. [Emil] Rivera-Lopez served more than 11 years in the military, where he dedicated himself to defending our country and its freedoms,” Ducey said in a release.

Rivera-Lopez was killed Aug. 25 when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Yemen. His body has not been recovered and he was presumed dead

“Arizona is eternally grateful for Staff Sgt. Rivera-Lopez’s service,” Ducey said. “Our state mourns with his family, and sends our prayers and deepest condolences.”

Website Military.com said Rivera-Lopez was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The unit “specializes in flying difficult nighttime missions, often ferrying ground special operations troops into battle,” according to the website.

The Arizona Daily Star said Rivera-Lopez had received several decorations, including the Army Commendation Medal for valor and the Army Achievement Medal.

Five other soldiers were rescued after the crash.

“Training events such as this are routinely held by U.S. forces within a theater of operations in order to maintain their proficiency within the operating environment,” Central Command said in a statement.

“Commanders deemed this location appropriate and safe for a routine training event, considering both the operational environment and weather conditions at the time.”

Yemen, located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, is the Arab world’s poorest country and is engulfed in a yearslong civil war.

It is also home to what the U.S. considers the most dangerous branch of the al-Qaida terror network. U.S. special forces backed with Emirati troops launched a raid in Yemen in January under President Donald Trump that killed a U.S. Navy SEAL and 30 other people, including women, children and an estimated 14 militants.

The cause of the Black Hawk crash was under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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