Stanford Law Graduate Killed in Helicopter Crash in Iraq

Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis (right) talks with former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Schultz (center) and Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill during a rededication ceremony at Stanford Law School to honor the school's students and graduates killed during World War II on Thursday, May 27, 2016. Zanetis helped spearhead the effort to rededicate the plaque to the World War II veterans. (Courtesy of Stanford Law School)

A graduate of Stanford Law School was one of seven members of the U.S. military killed aboard a helicopter that crashed in Iraq this week.

Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, who graduated from Stanford Law School in 2017, was serving with the New York Air National Guard when the helicopter he was on crashed near the Syrian border on Thursday.

The Pentagon said the crash did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and is under investigation.

"This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

"He never went by Christopher," said Duncan Pickard, a former Stanford classmate and roommate of Zanetis.

Sponsored

Zanetis lived in New York before coming to California for law school. He attended New York University for his undergraduate education and joined the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) after the attacks of September 11, 2001. He had returned to New York to work in the litigation department of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis was a Fire Marshall with FDNY.
Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis was a Fire Marshall with FDNY. (Courtesy of FDNY)

"He was living three blocks from Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, and he volunteered at the towers’ site until midnight the day of the events," wrote Michelle Wilde Anderson, one of Zanetis' professors at Stanford, in a tribute to the graduate. "One of few civilians who went towards the towers that night, he made himself useful to medical and rescue personnel."

Pickard says Zanetis' appreciation of working for New York City's fire department spilled over into international trips he took.

"When we would pass a municipal fire station in one of the cities we were visiting he would always want to go and talk to the firefighters," Pickard said.

Zanetis had been on leave from his position as a fire marshall for FDNY when the crash happened. Another member of FDNY also died in the crash, Lt. Christopher Raguso. They were "truly two of New York City's bravest," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"He often talked about how it was a dream to be at Stanford. That he never thought that someone like him could get in," Pickard said. "Which to me sounded ridiculous because he was one of the smartest and most accomplished in our class."

Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis speaks during a ceremony to honor Stanford Law School students and graduates who served in World War II.
Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis speaks during a ceremony to honor Stanford Law School students and graduates who served in World War II. (Courtesy of Stanford Law School)

At Stanford, Zanetis was a leader in the school's veterans and LGBT communities, according to classmate Benjamin Haas.

For all three years he was in law school, he was involved in the annual SLS musical, a satirical show that always proves to be one of the most memorable events of the year. He produced it in 2016 and 2017, and as one of the stars in 2016, he gave a dazzling performance that left me in awe. Carson White, my classmate who worked closely with him as a fellow star and producer, fondly remembers his leadership and his creativity in crafting jokes for the script. "Plus, he danced in heels so much better than I could have,” she said of the role Tripp played in drag. Anybody in attendance that year will never forget his enthusiasm and talent.

While in California, Zanetis maintained his affiliation with the National Guard, spending weekends doing flight training or helping with rescue missions out into the Pacific with his unit.

Anderson wrote that Zanetis, "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."

On Friday, President Donald Trump offered his thoughts and prayers on Twitter for the families of service members killed, saying he was thinking of the "brave troops," and adding that "their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten."

Sponsored

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
Log In ToPledge-Free Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.