Coast Guard calls off search for two people missing after helicopter crash in Albemarle Sound

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ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — The search for two people missing after a helicopter crash in the Albemarle Sound on Monday was called off Wednesday evening, Coast Guard officials told WNCT.

A Coast Guard official told WNCT Executive Producer Marisa Fonseca the search was suspended after two days and hundreds of miles of water and other areas were covered in the search. Officials said the helicopter went down sometime Monday after two people in it, who have not been identified, left Mecklenburg Brunswick Regional Airport in Brodnax, Va., and planned to land at the Dare County Regional Airport the same evening.

Over 38 hours, the Coast Guard said agencies that assisted in the search covered 3,303 mile.

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The Coast Guard and partner agencies on Tuesday said they were searching for two people in a reported downed helicopter in the vicinity of the Albemarle Sound.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina command center were notified by a concerned friend that lost communication with the pilot, who has not been identified, aboard a Robinson R44 helicopter at 6:40 p.m., Monday. Watchstanders launched air and surface assets to search the Albemarle Sound where the aircraft was last observed. 

Just before 6 p.m. Tuesday, the FAA released a new statement to WNCT regarding the crash, which conflicted with the Coast Guard’s report and said only the pilot was on board.

“The U.S. Coast Guard found the wreckage of a Robinson R44 helicopter in the Alligator River near Manteo, N.C., around 9:10 p.m. local time Monday. Only the pilot was on board. 

“The Federal Aviation Administration will release the tail number of the aircraft after investigators verify it at the accident site. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents or incidents.”

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard updated its information, addressing the FAA details released Tuesday.

“Two people were on board the helicopter. They are still looking for both people. The discrepancy was that the FAA didn’t have the updated info that the Coast Guard has.

“The search is ongoing. They searched throughout the night and throughout today. They found enough wreckage at the mouth of the Alligator River to determine it was the missing helicopter, but no bodies have been found.”

The Coast Guard said the two men departed from Mecklenburg Brunswick Regional Airport and planned to land at the Dare County Regional Airport the same evening.

At 10:46 a.m., Tuesday, a good Samaritan recovered a backpack and personal belongings near the mouth of the Alligator River. 

At 11:27 a.m., the MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew discovered helicopter debris in the water in the vicinity of the Alligator River Bridge in the Albemarle Sound. 

Searching were: 

  • A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
  • A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
  • A 29-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City
  • N.C. Marine Patrol
  • N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Tyrell County Sheriff’s Department
  • Tyrell County Emergency Management
  • Tyrell County Fire Department
  • Washington County Emergency Management 
  • Craven County Emergency Management
  • Hertford County Emergency Management
  • N.C. State Highway Patrol
  • Sydney Fire Department
  • Tow Boat U.S. Oregon Inlet

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