"I found this article and was not aware of someone that died other than the ground casualties on St. George."

submitted by
Jim "Tex" Shelton

Background: Cpt Timothy La Tour, Shamrock 61, D/1/10 Cav, June 69 to June 70, was enroute to drop flares on LZ St George when a serious accident occurred in the aircraft, resulting in the death of a crewman, Greg Rugenstein.


Camp Enari near Pleiku, II Corps, November 6, 1969.
4th Aviation had the primary stand-by flare mission. My unit (D/1/10 Cav) had the secondary stand-by flare mission. Ed Skaggs was the Crew Chief, and Greg Rugenstein was my door gunner. We were scrambled in the wee hours of Nov 6, 1969 to help Fourth Aviation drop flares for LZ St. George, south of Pleiku.

We took off for LZ St. George to relieve the 4th Aviation ship on station. After arriving, we dropped a couple of flares for Dustoff who came in for some wounded. While preparing for the next drop, the flare exploded into crew member Greg Rugenstein's face and blew his helmet out the door. He dropped to the floor in a pool of blood, and the crew chief, Ed Skaggs, was knocked out temporarily. The flare fully deployed and ignited inside the ship. Ed came to in time to toss the burning flare out of the ship, but the parachute caught on the M60 gun mount. He cut the lines, and the flare fell away. I had to abandon the mission, but St. George had just requested darkness anyway. They had called for Spooky, and they didn't want any more flares until Spooky arrived. So with the lull in flare requests, the accident didn't affect the situation on the ground.

We took Greg to 71st Evac in Pleiku where the hospital personnel were waiting on the pad. They tried to save his life, but apparently they couldn't stop the bleeding and he died a few days later. The crew chief, Ed Skaggs, was not injured. He was stunned and immobile for maybe a half minute or so, but that's all.

I have corresponded via email with one of the EM who was on duty in the 71st Evac ER that night we brought Greg in. He told me about the nature of Greg's injury and of the many units of blood (70+) they used trying to save his life.

P.S. All our slicks, including 328 and 454, were destroyed in a sapper attack at Camp Radcliff, April 4, 1970.