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1 Dead, 1 Missing After US Navy Helo Crash

Jan. 8, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By MEGHANN MYERS   |   Comments
Navy helicopter crash searchers still optimistic
Navy helicopter crash searchers still optimistic: While one crewman is still missing following the Navy helicopter crash off Cape Henry on Wednesday, U.S. Coast Guard members are optimistic and not giving up any time soon.
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An MH-53E helicopter went into the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia Beach, Va., on Wednesday morning. One crew member is dead and one remains missing. / MC2 Blake Midnight / US Navy

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One crew member is dead and another remains missing after a Norfolk, Va.-based US Navy helicopter and its five-man crew went into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia Beach this morning.

Four crew members of the MH-53E, which is assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, were pulled from the water and transported to a Norfolk-area hospital, a Coast Guard spokesman said. The Navy announced the death of one crew member via Twitter; neither Navy nor Coast Guard spokesmen would provide any information on the condition of the other three who were rescued.

The US Coast Guard cutter Shearwater and two Navy MH-60s Seahawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron 28 are searching for the fifth crew member, according to a Navy news release issued Wednesday afternoon.

The MH-53E was operating with another MH-53 at about 11 a.m. Eastern before making a distress call and an emergency water landing approximately 20 nautical miles off Virginia Beach, Naval Air Forces Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka said.

“The Coast Guard initially rescued two of the crew and dropped a life raft to two others, who have since also been rescued,” Kafka said. “One crew member remains missing, and two Coast Guard and Virginia Beach police craft are on station continuing the search.”

Kafka said he wasn’t aware of the exact nature of the mission the aircraft were on. The release called it “routine training operations.”

The cause of the mishap is under investigation, the release states.

The Shearwater, which was two miles from the site at the time of the incident, received a distress call at about 11:20 a.m., Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class David Weydert said.

Weydert said four members of the crew had been airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital by a Navy helicopter.

The MH-53E is primarily used for airborne mine countermeasures, operating from aircraft carriers and other warships and towing a variety of mine-hunting and minesweeping systems.

Its secondary missions include vertical shipboard delivery and, when fitted with a .50-cal machine gun weapon system, assault support.

The incident comes one day after an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter went down on the eastern coast of England, killing all four crew members. The helicopter, based out of RAF Lakenheath, crashed into the coast Tuesday evening during a low-flying training mission. Investigators are surveying the scene but had not recovered the crew’s remains as of Wednesday morning local time, according to an Associated Press report.

The Sea Dragon airframe is in use by two Norfolk-based squadrons — HM-14 and HM-15.

In 2012, two MH-53Es assigned to HM-15 suffered separate mishaps in the Middle East — a crash southwest of Muscat, Oman, in July that killed two crew members and a hard landing after an engine failure on takoff in August at Bahrain International Airport. The unit’s commanding officer and command master chief were fired in September of that year.

Mark D. Faram contributed to this report.

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