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Marine 1st Lt. Brandon R. Dronet

Died February 17, 2006 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

33, of Erath, La.; assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, N.C.; deployed to Djibouti as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa; killed Feb. 17 when two CH-53 helicopters crashed into the Gulf of Aden in the vicinity of Ras Siyyan, northern Djibouti, while flying a training mission in the Godoria Range area. Also killed were Marine Sgt. James F. Fordyce, Lance Cpl. Samuel W. Large Jr., Sgt. Donnie Leo F. Levens, Cpl. Matthieu Marcellus, Sgt. Jonathan E. McColley, Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie and Capt. Bryan D. Willard; and Air Force Senior Airman Alecia S. Good and Staff Sgt. Luis M. Melendez Sanchez.

La. Marine among 10 killed in crash near Djibouti

ERATH, La. — A Louisiana Marine was among the 10 U.S. service members killed when two military helicopters crashed off the eastern coast of Africa during a training mission.

1st Lt. Brandon R. Dronet, 33, of Erath, died along with seven other Marines assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, N.C.

Two airmen also died when the CH-53E helicopters went down Feb. 17 in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan in Djibouti.

The group was deployed as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia in Africa and Yemen on the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Dronet, 33, who married his high school sweetheart, was a 2002 graduate of LSU. “He was just your typical good country boy who was trying to do the right thing and serve his country,” attorney Warren Perrin, a family friend, said Monday. “His family was so proud of him.”

Kirk Soileau, an agriculture teacher at Erath High, taught Dronet for four years at Henry High School. He said he ran into Dronet and his wife, Summer, the last time they visited Louisiana.

“Brandon loved being in the Marines,” Soileau recalled Monday. “He was a good kid. I really enjoyed him. I think he enjoyed life.”

Final funeral arrangements were pending, said Curney Dronet, a cousin. Another family spokesman said the burial, however, would take place in Bancker, a rural Vermilion Parish community whose church was destroyed by a hurricane but the cemetery is still in use.

Dronet’s father, Gene Dronet, was in North Carolina with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren preparing to bring them back to Louisiana, Curney Dronet said.

The family expects Dronet’s body to be flown home before the end of the week, he said. “He was a good boy. He was very smart.”

At his officers commissioning ceremony, Dronet was presented a key to the city of Abbeville.

“The loss of life is sad, especially when its somebody we know,” said Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza. “I would just hope the citizens of Vermilion Parish, especially the children, realize the great sacrifice he made for our country. My prayers and condolences go out to the family.”

— Associated Press

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