Twelve Marines missing after a Hawaii helicopter crash involving two aircraft have been declared dead, officials have announced on Thursday, January 21.
Last Thursday, two Sikorsky CH-53E Super Sallion helicopters, considered to be the most massive and powerful in the Marine Corps’ inventory, embarked on a nighttime training exercise.
The two aircraft, each of them transporting 6 military men, had been part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, an aviation unit pertaining to the Marine Corps Air Station from Kaneohe Bay, in Honolulu County, Hawaii.
Shortly before midnight, a fatal collision between the two choppers occurred just as they were flying near Oahu Island, and was witnessed by a casual observer, who was standing on the beach at the time.
He promptly contacted representatives of the Coast Guard, revealing that he had seen flames enveloping the aircraft, as they met head-on.
Immediately afterwards, a rescue operation was launched, but the inclement weather made it difficult to search for survivors more effectively.
A helicopter belonging to the Coast Guard and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane were deployed in the area, identifying heavy amounts of debris that had resulted from the aviation accident, and had been strewn by the rough winds across around 7 miles, off the coast of Haleiwa, a community located on the northern side of Oahu.
However, despite the fact that first responders allegedly spotted an inflatable lifeboat in the ocean, there was no sign of any of the passengers, which is why they were declared missing, as search and rescue missions became more extensive in the area.
For 5 days, the Coast Guard scoured the waters, covering distances of approximately 40,000 square nautical miles, and yet they were unable to find traces of any survivors.
As a result, on Tuesday, January 18, the entire emergency operation was halted, as authorities were forced to accept the fact that all the 12 crew members, aged between 21 and 41, had perished in the helicopter crash.
United States Marine Corps representatives from the Casualty Assistance Calls Program (CACP) informed every victim’s family the following day, and now news about the Marines’ status was shared with the rest of the world as well.
While no remains have been found, the naval infantry men, who had been previously classified as missing, are now officially considered to be deceased, since there is no more hope that any of them made it out alive, following the mid-air collision.
So far, local authorities are yet to determine what triggered the accident, as the investigation is still ongoing. Also, for now it’s unclear why none of the passengers sent out a distress signal, in order to call for help.
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