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Coast Guard Halts Search For Marines In Helicopter Crash

Members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 search for debris on Friday, after two helicopters crashed off Oahu's coast. The search for survivors has now been called off.
Cpl. Ricky Gomez

Five days after two Marine Super Stallion helicopters crashed off of Oahu's North Shore, Coast Guard officials in Hawaii have called off an unsuccessful search for survivors. Search teams found only wreckage; they've now begun a salvage and recovery mission.

Capt. Jim Jenkins, chief of staff and acting commander of the Coast Guard 14th District, said the decision was made after a thorough review of the search effort.

Each of the helicopters were reportedly carrying six members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 when they went down, in what was reportedly a collision. They were part of Marine Aircraft Group 24, in the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The search for any potential survivors turned up life rafts, but no one was aboard.

From Capt. Jenkins:

"A decision to suspend searching without finding survivors is extremely difficult given the depth of its impact, and I know I speak for the entire Coast Guard when I say our thoughts and prayers are with Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron 463, and particularly with families and loved ones of those missing."

The Coast Guard says the search included seven helicopters and planes from multiple branches of the service, as well as the Honolulu police and fire departments. At least six ships were also involved; along the shoreline, Marines and other personnel combed the area for any sign of survivors.

"So far we've found a widespread debris field on the ocean floor with parts from an aircraft," Jenkins said, according to Hawaii Public Radio. "We are confident that these are aircraft parts that are associated with this crash."

The commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, said he hopes recovery and salvage operations will bring closure to friends and relatives of those in the crash.

"To the families, our prayers and support are to them," Sanborn said, according to HPR. "Our goal is to continue to support them in any way that they need right now."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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