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Man who grew up in Carmel killed in helicopter crash in Iraq

CARMEL, Ind. (AP/WISH) — A man who grew up in Carmel was one of the seven service members killed Thursday afternoon in western Iraq.

Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, 37, died in the crash of a military helicopter in transit from one location to another when it went down near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province.

Tripp’s father, John Zanetis, of Carmel, told the New York Post that his son was on unpaid leave from the FDNY as he pursued a career in law. Zanetis graduated from law school at Stanford University and had been working at a New York City firm, his father said.

“He was a very stand-up, moral, ethical person, up one side and down the other,” the father said. “He just wanted to be of service. He served people in the Fire Department, and in the military, and was going to do the same thing as a lawyer.”

Zanetis was a member of the New York Air National Guard who was on leave from the New York City fire department, according to his sister Angela Zanetis.

“There will never be anyone like Tripp,” Angela Zanetis told Newsday in an interview Friday from her home in Carmel. “Tripp died fighting for our country.”

Tim Griffin, a Carmel firefighter who attended Carmel High School with Zanetis, said this is a terrible loss.

It’s not yet clear if Zanetis was the pilot or co-pilot of the helicopter, but New York City Fire Lt. Peter Sapienza said Zanetis was a trained pilot for the New York Air National Guard.

Sapienza described Zanetis as brilliant, explaining Zanetis was president of his class at New York University, graduated from Stanford Law School, and felt self-compelled to join FDNY after 9/11.

Sapienza said this isn’t just a loss for Carmel or New York City.

“My first thoughts were such a loss for humanity,” Sapienza said. “I’ve lost a lot of men in my time on this job, sad to say. I lost six guys in 9/11 and two guys after that from cancer. But, there’s not one person that I’ve met that was Tripp.”

He said Zanetis would fly his helicopter to battle areas in Iraq and carried hundreds of people to the hospital.

He called Zanetis a shining star and said he could have run for political office and used his brains and character to make great changes to our country.

“Everyone was good in their own right, but no one was Tripp,” Sapienza said.

FDNY fire marshal Zanetis and Lt. Christopher Raguso were both aboard the military helicopter, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Raguso and Zanetis “bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service” with the Fire Department and the U.S. armed forces.

Zanetis was with the department since 2004 was promoted to fire marshal in 2013. He was recognized for his bravery as part of an investigative unit in 2014.

The Pentagon had said the crash does not appear to be the result of enemy activity and was under investigation.