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5 US Navy sailors declared dead following helicopter crash off CA coast; search called off

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Santiago Navarro)
September 04, 2021

The U.S. Navy declared five missing sailors deceased Saturday following an MH-60S helicopter crash off the coast of California on Tuesday.

According to a press release from the U.S. 3rd Fleet, efforts shifted from search and rescue to recovery on Saturday.

“As a matter of respect for the families and in accordance with Navy policy, the identities of the Sailors will be withheld until 24 hours after their next of kin have been notified,” the release stated.

“The transition from search and rescue efforts to recovery operations comes after more than 72 hours of coordinated rescue efforts encompassing 34 search and rescue flights, over 170 hours of flight time, with five search helicopters and constant surface vessel search,” it continued.

The helicopter, an MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) aircraft carrier, was conducting routine flight operations approximately 60 nautical miles (about 69 miles) off the coast of San Diego, when it went down at 4:30 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.

Units involved in the search effort included personnel from Coast Guard District 11, Abraham Lincoln, USS Cincinnati (LCS 20) and helicopter squadrons from the U.S. Pacific Fleet Helicopter Sea Combat Wing and Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing.

A map, shared by the open-source aviation and sea tracking account, Intel Air & Sea, shows where search helicopters are conducting their search and rescue efforts, in the waters south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“6hrs on the SAR mission is continuing around the crash site of the US Navy MH-60,” Intel Air & Sea tweeted.

The USS Abraham Lincoln is currently is homeported in San Diego, Calif.

The MH-60S Sea Hawk is based on the same design as the U.S. Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk. The Sea Hawk is used in a variety of missions, including combat support, humanitarian disaster relief and search and rescue. A Sea Hawk’s typical crew consists of four crew members, though it has capacity for five additional passengers in its cabin.

In July, another Navy helicopter crashed during a search for a lost hiker in California’s White Mountains, stranding the crew overnight.

The MH-60 Knighthawk helicopter crashed about 5 p.m. near Mount Hogue on the California-Nevada border east of Yosemite National Park, the Navy said, American Military News reported.

Ronald Bolen from Norman, Oklahoma – the missing hiker – had disappeared on a trip to climb Boundary Peak in Nevada, KOCO reported. His family received a photo from Bolen after he reached the summit, but they hadn’t heard from him again since.

“At this point, his phone is dead and we have not had contact with him in three and a half days,” daughter Meredith Bolen said.