After a 5-day rescue mission, U.S. Coast Guard captain Jim Jenkins announced that the search for 12 missing Marines off O‘ahu’s north shore has been suspended. “We’ve looked at all search efforts by all agencies. We’ve looked at the data and metrics, developments and particular circumstances of this case,” said Jenkins late Tuesday afternoon. “Based on this careful analysis, I’m announcing that the Coast Guard intends to suspend active search efforts tonight at sunset.”
The Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received notification of two downed CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters Thursday evening at 11:38 p.m. each with six personnel aboard. Military officials say it was a routine training exercise and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash. Since then, officials have been conducting an around-the-clock search for any survivors. “The decision to suspend this search without finding survivors is particularly difficult,” said Jenkins.
An underwater dive team and a Navy ship equipped with sonar discovered wreckage from the two helicopters on the sea floor. “So far we’ve found a widespread debris field on the ocean floor with parts from an aircraft,” explained Jenkins. “We are confident that these are aircraft parts that are associated with this crash.”
Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, the commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, said the Marine Corps will now be transitioning to recovery and salvage operations. It’s something he hopes will bring closure to the many families affected.
“To the families, our prayers and support are to them,” said Sanborn. “Our goal is to continue to support them in any way that they need right now.”
Sanborn announced a tentative memorial is set for Friday at Kāne‘ohe Bay’s Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i.