Miller, Harley, SPC

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Last Rank
Primary Unit
2004-2004, HHT, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry
Service Years
2001 - 2004

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Not Specified

Casualty Date
Nov 27, 2004
Non Hostile- Died Other Causes
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) /OEF - Afghanistan
Location of Interment
Pines Cemetery - Spokane, Washington
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Not Specified

 Official Badges 

25th Infantry Division

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Combat Action 1st Award

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry
  2004-2004, HHT, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  2004-2004 Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) /OEF - Afghanistan
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity


Families Of Army Plane Crash Victims Sue Contractor


POSTED: Monday, June 13, 2005


The families of three U.S. soldiers killed in a plane crash last fall in Afghanistan filed suit in federal court Monday, claiming a military contractor and four Florida-based aviation companies were negligent.

Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, Chief Warren Officer Travis Grogan, Spc. Harley Miller and three civilian crew members died in November 2004 after their aircraft crashed in the Hindu Kush mountains.

Grogan was previously in the Navy and stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

Lawyers from Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell and Matthews say the contractor, Blackwater USA, and the Florida aviation companies, claim the CASA 212 that crashed into a mountain in Nov. 27, 2004, was not suited for the terrain and the civilian pilots had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks and were not properly trained.

"This crash was totally preventable," Bob Spohrer said. "A proper flight plan had not been filed and the crew was newly deployed in the region. The crew was north of its intended route and in violation of FAA regulations that required them to wear oxygen masks at an elevation above 10,000 feet." 

Pieces of the engine and wheels were found in snow near the top of Baba Mountain, which rises to 16,600 feet.

Spohrer also said that Blackwater did not provide adequate safety equipment on the plane and ground crews failed to use the emergency location transmitter signal to find the downed plane quickly.

Through its attorney, Blackwater told Channel 4's Casey Black that it did not own the airplane that crashed, they were not involved in the fatal flight and should not be held responsible. 

"Blackwater was not the contractor. It did not own the airplane and it played no role in the performance of this contract," attorney Jonathan Stern said. 

Blackwater's Web site lists the operator of the aircraft, Presidential Airways -- one of the defendants named in the suit -- as the commercial arm of Blackwater Aviation.
Spohrer produced a news release from Blackwater, dated Oct. 18, 2004, that announced it had received a $35 million contract to supply three planes for use by the Army in Afghanistan. 

The Army and Air Force have conducted investigations into the crash and determined that weather was not a factor in the crash. They also ruled out mechanical malfunction and hostile fire as causing the plane to go down.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.

Jeannette McMahon, an Army lieutenant colonel herself, said that losing her 31-year-old husband has been devastating for her and her three kids.

"When my older son went to go on a trip, and was going to fly, he said, 'You know, I'm really going to miss my brother, because he's going on a plane and it might crash,'" McMahon said  her youngest son, now 5 years old, is also afraid of dying. 

"He sometimes is afraid to go to sleep at night because he says that he is afraid that he will not wake (up)," McMahon said.

The families said they hope this lawsuit will not only get answers to what caused the crash, but will help ensure that other civilian military contractors take necessary safety precautions in the future.
LYNNWOOD - "This is my favorite," Christine Miller told me as we looked at pictures of her 21-year-old son Harley holding his own son. "That's the day his son was born."

The Army helicopter mechanic had always told his mom he was in the boring part of Afghanistan and not in danger.

But last week he broke a tooth and was flown to a dentist at Bagram Air Base. Before the flight back to his own unit he emailed his mom one more time.

"And he asks me he said the phones are down and so I can't call anybody. Call Sarah and tell her I love her. And that was his last email the night before he died."

Sarah is his 19-year-old wife in Spokane and the mom of their now 1-year-old son.

The small CASA 212 airplane under contract to the U.S. military went down in bad weather high in the Hindu Kush mountains killing Miller and the other five on board. Bad weather, not hostile fire, is blamed so far.

"He was a great kid. He was a great kid," said his aunt Katie Pittsenbarger.

Wednesday night his family was still waiting for confirmation that Miller's remains would be returned to the northwest. They plan to bury him in Metaline in Pend Orielle County next to his grandfather. But now all his family is left with are pictures and their grief. His mom, however, also has a steady resolve that his death was not in vain.

"The mother part of me would like to scream and rage," said Christine. "But my son was very proud of what he was doing for our country and trying to keep it safe. I pray for every one of those family members that lost somebody on that plane and for everybody that's still there. God willing it will end soon but it's something that had to be done."

"My son's life wasn't given up for nothing. He wasn't over there for nothing. It was for a reason and we firmly believe that. "

Weeks ago, Christine Miller asked her son by email what he wanted for Christmas. He asked her to send Christmas dinner for every soldier in his unit: about 40 people.

Christine, with the help of friends, recently finished making that wish come true by sending dozens of boxes of canned hams, stuffing, canned soups, and more. Those boxes are just now arriving in Afghanistan. Miller's fellow soldiers promise to have that Christmas meal in his honor.

The Department of Defense identifies the other soldiers killed in the plane crash as Lt. Col. Michael J. McMahon of Connecticut and Chief Warrant Officer Travis W. Grogan of Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

In Lynnwood, we sat in a living room and looked at photographs of Army Specialist Harley David Ronald Miller.

"This is what my son looked like, the laughing kids piling on top," she said of a smiling photo of her son with several younger relatives climbing on his back. "That was my son I want people to remember."

November 27th Harley Miller died in a plane crash in Bamian, Afghanistan along with two other soldiers and three civilians.

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