As previously reported, the Marine Corps recently released the names of the 12 missing Marines that were part of a helicopter crash. After five days of searching to no avail, the decision has been made to change the focus from search and rescue to “recovery and salvage”.
Officials said at news conference late Tuesday afternoon that the search was being suspended at sundown and the Marine Corps would transition to “recovery and salvage” efforts. A memorial is tentatively planned for Friday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.
“The decision to suspend the search without finding survivors is particularly difficult,” said Capt. James Jenkins, chief of staff and acting commander of the Coast Guard 14th District in Honolulu.
The search began late Thursday when a civilian on a beach reported seeing the helicopters flying and then a fireball.
The Marines were alerted when the CH-53E helicopters carrying six crew members each failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay following a nighttime training mission. Hours later, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted debris 2 1/2 miles off of Oahu.
The crash was near the north shore, but the search area spanned from the western coast of Oahu to the northeast corner of the island.
The transport helicopters were part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armoured vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.
The Coast Guard initially reported that the choppers had collided, but the Marines said later it wasn’t yet known if there was a collision. The cause remains under investigation.
The Marine Corps will strive to “discover all of the facts” surrounding the crash, said Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.