Pilot Patrick Leach, a native of Federal Way, was one of two Task Force Olympia soldiers killed when two U.S. helicopters collided in northern Iraq Thursday night, according to...

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Pilot Patrick Leach, a native of Federal Way, was one of two Task Force Olympia soldiers killed when two U.S. helicopters collided in northern Iraq Thursday night, according to military officials. He was 39.

His friend, Lt. Andrew Shields, also died in the accident. Four others were injured but have returned to duty.

Chief Warrant Officer Leach’s AH-64 Apache helicopter collided with a UH-60 Black Hawk in Mosul. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

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A member of the South Carolina National Guard, he also served in Operation Desert Storm.

“I’m just proud of how he ran his life,” said his father, Bruce Leach. “He was a very honorable person, and he was really a good father.”

As part of the Guard’s Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Aviation Battalion, Chief Warrant Officer Leach’s unit of about 225 was deployed in October to provide aerial security and aerial reconnaissance support to soldiers from Fort Lewis, said Lt. Colonel Pete Brooks. The majority of the members of Task Force Olympia come from Fort Lewis-based units.

“It’s a terrible loss any time you lose a soldier, be it in wartime or in peace,” Brooks said. “It’s a horrible loss for the state of South Carolina.”

According to Brooks, these are the second and third deaths for South Carolina’s Army and Air National Guard in this war.

Chief Warrant Officer Leach’s parents, who live in Tacoma, learned about his death just after they returned from Rock Hill, S.C., after taking his younger children to Disney World.

“He’s just one of those exceptional people,” said Grace Leach. “He was good at anything he did.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Chief Warrant Officer Leach moved to Federal Way with his family when he was 3 months old. He grew up there, and his teenage sons from his first marriage still live in the area. Carl, 19, is also a pilot and serves in the Air Force reserves at McChord Air Force Base, and Brandon, 17, is a senior at Decatur High School in Federal Way.

Chief Warrant Officer Leach was a jet captain for Mesa Airlines, an express carrier for U.S. Airways.

“Pat was somebody who was always interested in what I did, if I were flying or working on the house,” Bruce Leach said of his son, who learned to fly gliders when he was 14. “But it got to the point where he was so much better than I was that I would call him up for advice.”

“He was a troubleshooter,” his father said.

Chief Warrant Office Leach came from a long tradition of serving in the military.

“Grace was an Army nurse,” his father said. “I was a Navy pilot, Grace’s father was in the Army Corps of Engineers his entire career, and my father was an infantryman.”

In addition to his sons, Chief Warrant Officer Leach is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; daughter Juliet; 4, and sons Grafton; 2, and Miller, 7 months. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 30525 8th Ave. S., Federal Way.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 425-745-7809 or jhsu@seattletimes.com