Californians Among 31 Killed in Helicopter Crash

Times Staff Writer

In a poem he sent to his family shortly before his death, Mourad Ragimov spoke of a youthful search for identity. The 20-year-old Marine lance corporal saw himself as a train hurtling down the tracks.

A blurry, black object made of “curiosity, fear, anger, hate, stupidity” smashed into him. It knocked him off his tracks.

I still can’t find them but I realized it doesn’t matter because I can build my own railroad tracks to run on.

“It saddens me that he was on the right track, going the right way,” said his father, Rufat, reminiscing at the family home in San Diego.


He said his son was a creative and inquisitive young man who had “a lot of energy inside him.”

Mourad Ragimov was killed Jan. 26 in the crash of a military transport helicopter during bad weather near Rutbah, in western Iraq. Also killed were 29 other Marines and a sailor.

Six other U.S. troops were killed the same day in insurgent attacks, marking the deadliest day for American forces since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Ragimov was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.


“He was witty and humorous and very intelligent,” said longtime family friend Patricia Rincon-Keyes, 50, of Encinitas, Calif.

She recalled how, as a teenager, Ragimov improvised a ballad about her twin sister.

“One day we were all sitting around and he started singing this really funny song about my sister and playing his guitar,” she said.

“A couple of hours later, he shows up with this entire song he’d written. It kept us all entertained for hours. We sang it the other night at the family home, in the middle of the sadness.”


Ragimov had strong interests in writing and music, but also was a talented computer programmer and website designer, Rincon-Keyes said.

He left Torrey Pines High School at age 16 and took classes at a community college because he wanted to be exposed to a larger world.

Family members and friends were taken by surprise when Ragimov, who emigrated from Azerbaijan with his family in 1989 to escape civil strife, announced that he wanted to join the U.S. military.

He said protecting his adopted country and his loved ones would help give meaning to his life.


“I told him, ‘Don’t do that. You can structure your life without putting yourself in the hands of commanders,’ ” his father recalled. The young man could not be swayed. He joined the Marine Corps at 18.

But Ragimov became disenchanted in Iraq, where he was deployed last fall.

“Mourad said he hated the war. He hated what he was going through,” his father said. “His mother said to him, ‘Did you kill anyone?’ and he said, ‘I’m not going to talk about that now.’ ”

In addition to his father, Ragimov is survived by his mother, Dinara; and a sister, Shayla, 15.


Services were held Friday at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma, Calif.