OAHU (KHON) — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Tuesday that at sunset, crews will suspend the active search for 12 Marines missing after Thursday night’s double helicopter crash off the North Shore.
This was the fifth day of a multi-agency search-and-rescue mission.
Capt. Jim Jenkins, U.S. Coast Guard District 14 chief of staff, called it a very difficult decision, made after careful analysis of the developments and circumstances of the case.
“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 and particularly with families and loved ones of those missing,” said Capt. Jim Jenkins, chief of staff and acting commander, Coast Guard 14th District. “We stand ready to support any future maritime operations, and we will continue to provide any comfort we can for those suffering from this terrible loss.”
The Marine Corps will now take the lead role for any salvage and the ongoing investigation into the cause of the incident.
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.
On Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard confirmed all four life rafts aboard the two aircraft were recovered, and there was no indication from the sightings that any survivors had been aboard any of the life rafts.
Officials said the Marines are with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and are the only ones on the island assigned to fly the CH-53E heavy-lift transport helicopters, also known as Super Stallions.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii spokesman Capt. Timothy Irish described them as “extremely reliable and safe aircraft” and training with the aircraft is part of a routine schedule.
“As part of the squadrons’ role to operate day or night in a variety of weather conditions, they will train in low-light conditions and darkness, using the aid of night vision goggles,” he said.