Planes in distress were called several times around 6:30 p.m., Todd K. Baxter told the Monroe County Sheriff’s press conference.
“According to 911 reports … atomization, engine noises and the plane flew very low, lower than usual,” Baxter said.
The first respondents arrived to find a helicopter on fire.
“They went into life-saving mode and tried to save anyone who might be on the plane or in the area,” Baxter said, adding that the rubble field is currently expanding a few blocks of the city, or about 100 feet in both directions.
The helicopter was a UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter. The case is being investigated, the Department of Military and Naval Affairs said, adding that no further information was immediately available.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a preliminary investigation into the accident, Baxter said. His office will then hand over the investigation to the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Guard.
“This is a heavy, heavy burden for all of us. These are our liberators. … Today we have lost three brave Americans in the service of our country,” Baxter said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was “disastered” by the deaths of soldiers.
“Members of the National Guard are our civilian soldiers who volunteer and protect both at home and abroad, and I express prayers and condolences to all New Yorkers for the families, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honorable heroes we will never forget.”
The governor sent flags to all state buildings that had to be lowered to half-personnel on Thursday in honor of the victims.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to the report.