BY SAM RAPPAPORT
Long Island City resident Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, 37, was one of four New York Air National Guard members who died on March 15 when their rescue helicopter crashed in western Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.
The four men, who were based in the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach, were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, which targets the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The men were part of a seven-member team that included two airmen from Florida and one from Colorado. All seven men died in the crash.
The Department of Defense said that the fatalities do not appear to be the result of enemy activity.
In civilian life, Zanetis worked as a fire marshal for the city’s Fire Department in its Bureau of Fire Investigation. His colleague, Christopher Raguso, 39, who also died in last Thursday’s crash, was a lieutenant for the FDNY’s 13th Division in Richmond Hill.
“[Zanetis and Raguso] are truly two of New York City’s bravest—running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, loved ones and fellow service members and FDNY members.”
Zanetis and Raguso had both worked for more than a decade with the FDNY.
“Lt. Raguso and fire marshal Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service—as New York City firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “The hearts and prayers of the entire department are with their loved ones and with the families of their five fellow service members who lost their lives defending our country.”
Zanetis is survived by his parents, John and Sarah, of Carmel, Indiana. Raguso, who lived in Commack, is survived by his wife, Carmella, and their two daughters, ages 5 and 6.
Frank Siller, chairman and CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, donated $100,000 to help pay off the outstanding amount on Raguso’s mortgage.
“When something like this happens, we are going to be upfront, taking the lead to make sure we take care of these families,” Siller said. “We can’t ever replace their loss, but we can alleviate a burden.”
The other two NY airmen who died in Thursday’s crash were Andreas O’Keeffe, of Center Moriches, and Dashan Briggs, of Port Jefferson Station.
Zanetis, who joined the 106th Rescue Wing in 2008, graduated from Stanford Law School with pro bono distinction in 2017 and then began working as an associate in the litigation department of the New York City law firm Debevoise & Plimpton.
A statement provided by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP reads, “We are deeply saddened to learn that our colleague Tripp Zanetis was lost in Thursday’s U.S. military helicopter crash in Iraq. He was an exceptional person and will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues in the firm.”
Stanford Law Professor Michelle Wilde Anderson wrote a tribute to Zanetis in which she lamented the loss of a talented student who would have made an exemplary politician.
“With hardwiring for public service, the sweet energy of a puppy and a brilliant, curious mind, Tripp was making a life that would make a difference,” Anderson wrote. “He was building towards elected office, and he would have been a leader for our times. Tripp Zanetis was gold. We are richer for his life, and we owe something back for it.”