HONOLULU, HAWAII (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, Hawaii.
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 difficult decision, made after careful analysis.
“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. “Nothing can ease the pain of the families of those missing, but I hope that the efforts, the knowledge that so many were willing to put forward so much effort to try to bring those Marines home, will provide some solace in the future.”
Jenkins said in the five days of continuous searching, crews located some crash debris as well as helicopter wreckage on the sea floor, two miles offshore in about 325 feet of water.
“So far we’ve found widespread debris field on the ocean floor with parts of aircraft, and that’s the extent of it at this point in time,” Jenkins said. “We’re confident that these aircraft parts are associated with this crash and we are collecting information as we speak.”
All four life rafts aboard the two aircraft were recovered, and there was no indication that any survivors had been aboard any of the life rafts, officials said.
The Marine Corps will now take the lead role for any salvage and the ongoing investigation into the cause of the incident.
“As we transition our efforts to recovery and salvage operations and continue to provide support to the families of our Marines, we thank you, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, the civilian organizations have been nothing but outstanding. We support them 100 percent and we thank them for what they did,” said Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
Sanborn stressed the importance of “the recovery of any of the debris and any other remains that may be discovered so that we can get closure to those families that are still out there that still want that final piece to the puzzle.”
A memorial for the 12 Marines is tentatively planned for Friday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Details will be posted.
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. The searches are layered on top of each other to provide multiple perspectives and fresh eyes on scene.