Wisc.-Native Among Marines Killed in Fla. Chopper Crash

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amid bad weather, wreckage of helicopter crash that killed 11 remains just 25 feet under water.

(Reuters) – Search teams stopped looking for more bodies after finding the wreckage of an Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed during a nighttime training mission off Florida’s Gulf Coast, killing all seven Marines and four soldiers on board, authorities said on Thursday. The Louisiana National Guard also announced that two of the four soldiers’ bodies had been recovered as part of the search operation in the Santa Rosa Sound, about 25 miles east of Pensacola, and that the search for the other two would continue.The helicopter was also recovered. The four soldiers, the aircrew, were members of the National Guard’s 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion out of Hammond, La. “At this point, we are not hopeful for survivors and we’re transitioning our search and rescue to a recovery effort,” said Col. Monte Cannon, 96th Test Wing vice commander at nearby Eglin Air Force Base, in a statement Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family members and the units where our soldiers and Marines call home.” The investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing, and the Army and the Marines have not released the names of the victims.

There’s almost no visibility at the spot where the wreckage was found, forcing search crews to move slowly to avoid colliding with each other, and the surf is too rough still to pull the wreckage to the surface. They were conducting training involving “helicopter and boat insertion and extraction,” with an experienced Army air crew providing the helicopter support, a Marine Corps spokesman said. Kemp was a “proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father,” with a child about to turn 1, said his sister-in-law, Lora Waraksa of Port Washington, Wisconsin. The National Guard soldiers, from Hammond, Louisiana, each did two tours in Iraq, and joined in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill, their commanders said. These “unconventional warriors” train constantly to endure grueling conditions and sensitive assignments on land and at sea, from seizing ships to special reconnaissance missions and direct action inside hostile territory.

A woman at campground nearby, Kim Urr, said she heard a metallic sound and then two muffled explosions as it disappeared into the narrow waterway separating Santa Rosa Island from the Florida panhandle mainland. This dense sea fog, which could persist through Friday, is common when warm southern air meets cold water this time of year, said Jack Cullen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Mobile, Alabama.

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