Nevada County Army pilot dies in helicopter crash | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Army pilot dies in helicopter crash

Family and friends this month will celebrate the life of Kevin Burke, a 28-year-old Grass Valley man and U.S. Army pilot who died Jan. 20 when the helicopter he was driving crashed at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin.

Burke, a chief warrant officer who enlisted for active duty in 2005, was well-respected by colleagues and friends, according to family members.

"He was smart, charming, handsome and charismatic," said Burke's mother, Colleen Leatherland Burke. "Everybody loved him."

The helicopter pilot was deployed overseas four times during his service in the Army, twice to Iraq and once each to Korea and Afghanistan.

Born in Fairfield, Burke moved to Grass Valley with family at age 16, where he was homeschooled. He lived in Nevada County for two years before joining the Army.

"He considered Grass Valley home," Colleen said. "This is where he'd come when he was on breaks."

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Casey Burke, Kevin's brother, described the pilot as "magnetic."

"He was a lot of fun to be around," Casey said. "He was the center of attention, but he never really tried to be."

Casey said after attending a memorial service Kevin's Army unit hosted, he learned his brother was a well-loved member of the team.

"He was a morale booster," Casey said. "He could get everybody excited."

Kevin would often play music on his boombox, sing and do impressions for members of his unit during difficult times, Casey said.

Burke and Clayton Cullen, of Indiana, who were both assigned to Fort Carson's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade in Colorado, reportedly died during a training exercise in the Mojave Desert. The crash is under investigation.

A memorial service for Burke is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St., Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.