Navy launch mission to try to recover crashed MH-60 helicopter and lost sailors


An MH-60S Knighthawk, assigned to the “Eightballers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) on May 20, 2021. Photo of the US Navy

The Navy is organizing a deep-water rescue of what is believed to be the wreckage of the helicopter that crashed three weeks ago and sank in the eastern Pacific from the deck of an aircraft carrier, learned USNI News.

A search and recovery team has located, at a depth of 5,300 feet below the surface, what the Navy believes to be the missing MH-60S Knighthawk assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8, confirmed a responsible for the Navy.

“The US Navy located the probable wreckage of the MH-60S helicopter that crashed into the sea on August 31, near its last known location about 60 nautical miles off the coast of San Diego,” said Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesman for the U.S. 3rd Fleet, said Wednesday. “With the probable location identified, the Navy has started to mobilize units that will be used to check the site and recover the helicopter.”

Despite search and rescue efforts immediately after the helicopter crashed into the sea, five crew members descended with the aircraft. The Navy later declared them dead: Pilot Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29, Oakhurst, Calif .; Pilot Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28, of Annandale, Va .; Naval Air Crewman (helicopter) 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, of Salem, Va .; Class HM2 Sarah F. Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Maryland.; and HM3 Bailey J. Tucker, 21, from Saint-Louis, Mo. The HSC-8 squadron is based at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California.

Sailors presumed dead after the MH-60S Knighthawk crash on August 31, 2021 off the coast of California. USNI news photo illustration

Another sailor who was in the helicopter was rescued from the ocean before the helicopter sank, the Navy said. Five sailors working on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier were injured in the crash.

It is not known what caused the helicopter to malfunction while it was operating on the flight deck as the USS. Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), who was training at sea about 60 miles southwest of San Diego, California. A summary of the incident released by the Navy Safety Center said the helicopter “suffered lateral vibrations causing the main rotor to strike the flight deck.” The aircraft then fell off the side of the aircraft carrier. .

The recovery of the MH-60 – as well as the recovery of the remains of the crew members – should help investigators into the incident understand what happened.

The 240ft HOS Offshore Supply Vessel Domineering, owned and contracted by Louisiana-based Hornbeck Offshore, returned to the North Island on Sunday after five days searching for the downed plane with deep-water rescue teams with the Rescue and Dive Supervisor ( SUPSALV) of Naval Sea Systems Command.

“They haven’t moved anything yet,” said Robertson.

Teams located what is presumed to be the MH-60S using the Shallow Water Intermediate Search System (SWISS) with its towed side scanner and the Towed Pinger Locator 25, or TPL-25. SWISS uses a towed torpedo-shaped side-scan sonar that can search for waters as deep as 8,000 feet. The TPL-25 is a towed, fish-shaped device that passively listens to emergency relocation pingers – such as those from aircraft flight data recorders – located up to 20,000 feet underwater.

But further investigation is needed to confirm that the wreckage is that of the MH-60S, and not that of another sunken craft. If it is confirmed to be the HSC-8 helicopter, deep recovery equipment will be available to retrieve the helicopter and the remains of the lost sailors and bring them back to land, Robertson said.

Officials would not say how soon this search and recovery mission will begin.

“It’s about putting the assets together to come out and take a look,” said Robertson.

The work – especially at this 5,300 foot depth – will require more specialized search and recovery equipment. Such equipment includes remote-controlled vehicles which are more robust to bring up wreckage from planes and which remain on the surface. One is the CURV-21, a 6,400-pound ROV designed to meet the US Navy’s deep-sea rescue requirements to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet of seawater, according to NAVSEA.

Earlier this year, rescue teams using the CURV-21 located and successfully recovered an MH-60S Knighthawk that crashed off Okinawa in 2020 and sank to a depth of 19,075. ‘is produced while the Seahawk was operating from the 7th Fleet amphibious command ship USS. The blue crest (LCC-19). The crew escaped the helicopter before it sank, and no one was injured in the crash.


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