Waipahu Army pilot interviewed shortly before fatal crash

Don C. Viray
Don C. Viray
Jim Spiri
Jim Spiri

Don C. Viray, the 25 year old Army helicopter pilot from Waipahu who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on April 19, was interviewed by freelance journalist Jim Spiri less than two months before his fatal flight.

Spiri recorded audio of the interview and has posted the entire 4 minutes and 51 second exchange on his web site as a tribute to Viray. Follow the link below to hear the entire interview.

The interview begins with Spiri giving his name, the date, and his location.

"This is Jim Spiri. It's February 23, 2012. I'm at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan," Spiri says.

"Tell me your name," Spiri continues.

"You are with CW2 Don Viray," Viray answers.

"What made you want to become a pilot in the Army?" Spiri asks.

"Well, like most people when you are in high school you want to do something cool and you want to fly. I just got lucky enough to be able to do it," Viray says.

After two years in flight school and a year ferrying personnel around by helicopter in Iraq, Viray realized his dream of becoming a medevac "chase" pilot in Afghanistan.

"What we do is provide med chase. That is when these guys get a call we go out with them as the second aircraft in the formation. When they have to land, our job is to just provide security for them or as a second set of eyes. (We) Let them know what is going on around them. They are not armed. We are. And if we need to, we can help suppress," Viray says in the recorded interview.

Viray was flying "chase" on one of those medevac missions in the Helmand Province on April 19. It was a pitch black night when his chopper crashed. The Army is investigating. At least one report (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/shot-in-the-dark-blackhawk-down.htm) suggests Viray's Black Hawk was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

Viray and three others, CW2 Nicolas Johnson, Sergeant Dean Shaffer, and Sergeant Chris Workman, were killed.

"When I heard it, my wife had called me where I was working at my neighbor's house and told me what had happened and I just broke down and wept like a baby because I was terrified it was going to be this young man because I had heard it was a Hawaii bird," Spiri told Hawaii News Now by telephone from his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Spiri asked Hawaii News Now to let Viray's parents, Leo and Luz Viray, know about the audio recording. We sent a reporter and cameraman to their home. The Virays did not want to talk on camera, but after hearing the recording said it felt good to hear their son's voice. They thanked Spiri for his work and said they planned to contact him to express their appreciation.

Viray will be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on Thursday, May 10.

Don Viray's sister Sherry has established a web page in her brother's memory. It can be found by clicking on the link below.

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