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Search Suspended for 12 Marines Feared Lost Following Hawaii Helicopter Collision

Marines discuss search efforts outside the Haleiwa Incident Command Post in Haleiwa, Hawaii, Jan. 18, 2016. US Coast Guard Photo

Marines discuss search efforts outside the Haleiwa Incident Command Post in Haleiwa, Hawaii, Jan. 18, 2016. US Coast Guard Photo

The Coast Guard is suspending the search for 12 Marines, now believed to be dead, after five days of looking for survivors following the Thursday crash of two CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters of the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The two aircraft, assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Air Wing out of Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, were believed to have collided during a night training operation on Thursday.

Since the crash, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, Hawaii National Guard and local emergency agencies have searched for the missing Marines. The search discovered all four life rafts carried by the two Super Stallions, debris from the helicopters but no evidence of the missing Marines.

“The decision to suspend this search without finding survivors is particularly difficult,” Capt. Jim Jenkins, acting commander of Coast Guard District 14, said during a late Tuesday press conference.
“We will continue to provide any comfort we can from this terrible loss.”

According to a Coast Guard statement, “as of sunset Tuesday, the Coast Guard and military partners will have conducted a cumulative search effort of 40,530 sq. nautical miles, plus the extensive shoreline effort by the Honolulu Fire and Police Departments with Ocean Safety Lifeguard Service. More than 130 individual searches were conducted over five days, a continuous sustained search effort of 115 hours.”

The missing Marines are:
— Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.
— Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia
— Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis
— Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.
— Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24,Chaska, Minnesota.
— Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania.
— Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.
— Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama.
— Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas.
— Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida.
— Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts.
— Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.

Marines and sailors with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 challenged each other to a competition when they launched seven CH-53E Super Stallions, five AH1 Cobras and one UH1 Huey helicopter in March 2013. US Marine Corps photo.

Marines and sailors with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 challenged each other to a competition when they launched seven CH-53E Super Stallions, five AH1 Cobras and one UH1 Huey helicopter in March 2013. US Marine Corps photo.

1st Marine Air Wing commander Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn said during the Tuesday press conference the emphasis was now on recovery and salvage operations, “and continue to provide support to the families of our Marines.”

An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.

  • arslonga vitabrevis

    Why was this
    Super Stallion training mission performed when it was? Oahu’s north coast has
    waves, swells which are above and beyond others, which is why surf competitions
    are held here in January. Not to mention the swells were called
    “historic” at the time of this incident. This was training, not a
    mission which had to be accomplished. While training is expensive to schedule
    and cancel, it is more costly to have loss like this. While training needs to
    be rigorous it is more important for it to be effective, serve genuine purpose.
    There are far too many fatal helicopter accidents in the military lately. Are
    we going back to the days where training is allowed to be fatally dangerous? It
    appears so. With such extensive training required now a day, for limited troops
    and operations, it needs to be smart and effective training, not costly as this
    was. Especially when recovery efforts are increasingly pared down as they have
    been. What motivation does this give troops to want to go the extra mile?
    Policies need to be reviewed. If you are going to push people and equipment
    beyond limits, develop equipment which can handle the environment. Innovate and
    get transport out there which can handle the conditions. We have stalled our
    innovations. We can do better. We need a craft which can handle high wind
    sheer, maintaining hover, direction and maneuverability, high seas and limited visibility
    for SAR and operations. These technologies and crafts are OLD. For petes sake
    we are going to have driverless cars coming out and our “elite”
    military is losing members due to old equipment (and poor training standards).
    If I was a part of this SAR I would still be out looking, I hope the marines
    maintain accountability and maintain search for survivors until debris proves
    otherwise. I hope they get better aircraft and I hope they learn training
    policy should be as smart as it is rigorous. Too many accidents lately.
    Meanwhile I will keep in mind next time I go out on the water, USCG search
    guidelines have shortened searches across the board.

    • arslonga vitabrevis

      Northrup came up with a whole new animal when he came out with the flying wing and he made it work. He brought us a capability we never had before. We need this now. We need something better than a helicopter to do what we are expecting a helicopter to do. We need something that can handle high wind sheer,hover, maintain direction and maneuverability and operate in low visibility. Is American innovation a thing of the past? Are we going to keep sending troops out to do missions on outdated equipment? We are stuck in a rut, instead of progressing forward we are at a stand still. Come on, we can do better than this. Fix the patent law corruptions and give our innovators back the power to create.

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  • duralexa

    The KA 52 Russian helicopter can easily fly at night as it has on board radar and crews fly with night infrared gogles which enables them to see in the dark and designate targets. I am sure the Super Stallion must have some similar equipment which makes this accident hard to understand. Collisions should not happen in this day and age, specialy during training. Bless the souls of those young men and women that serve the nation and will some day liberate it.