Recent Stanford Law graduate Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis J.D. ’17 was among the seven U.S. troops who died in Thursday’s helicopter crash near Qaim, a town in western Iraq near the Syrian border.
A litigation department associate at the New York City firm Debevoise & Plimpton, Zanetis had left for Iraq — his third tour — in the middle of January. The 37-year-old was on leave from his post as Fire Marshal at the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Zanetis died alongside another New York City firefighter, Christian Engeldrum, and the other five troops in the helicopter.
According to The New York Times, officials do not suspect that the crash occurred because of hostile action. Initial investigations suggest that a mechanical failure may have occurred prior to the crash. The helicopter, a HH-60 Pave Hawk, is in the same family of helicopters as the Black Hawk helicopter and is commonly used for search-and-rescue missions.
Ahmed al-Mahilawi, Qaim’s mayor, said that the accident occurred shortly after the helicopter took off. The Times also reported that the helicopter was not on a combat mission but rather just moving troops at the time of the crash.
“Zanetis was a beloved student, friend and community member here at Stanford Law School and will be deeply missed,” said Stanford Law Dean M. Elizabeth Magill in a statement. “We are heartbroken at his loss. Our thoughts are with his family and with all who knew and loved him. He was one of the most extraordinary students I had the privilege of knowing, and he will long be remembered in the institution.”
Zanetis’ father told The Times that Zanetis was “a pilot, flies a rescue helicopter … a CrossFit trainer, and he was in excellent health. He was unbelievable.”
President Donald Trump acknowledged the seven troops’ death in a Twitter post on Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday,” he wrote. “Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten.”
Zanetis graduated from Stanford Law with pro bono distinction, according to his biography on Debevoise & Plimpton’s website. He graduated with an honors degree in politics from New York University in 2003 and had been a firefighter with FDNY since 2003.
Claire Wang contributed to this report.
Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.