POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 1, 2011
A 22-year-old Marine Corps aerial observer who returned to Kaneohe from Afghanistan last year after a seven-month combat tour was killed this week in a night training exercise over Kaneohe Bay.
Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps officials said Cpl. Jonathan D. Faircloth of Mechanicsburg, Pa., died when a CH-53D Sea Stallion crashed on a sandbar Tuesday shortly after 7:30 p.m.
Faircloth’s parents, Dean and Beverly Faircloth, described their son as a gentleman and a happy person who loved the Marine Corps and his job.
A memorial service at the base chapel is scheduled for Thursday.
Three other Marines were in stable condition and recovering from their injuries at the Queen’s Medical Center. the Marine Corps said. Kaneohe officials said the three are suffering from ankle and spinal injuries, but did not release specifics.
Faircloth and two of his fellow helicopter crewmen were veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars.
Faircloth, who had enlisted in August 2008, joined Kaneohe Bay’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in April 2007. Besides one combat tour in Afghanistan, Faircloth also served with the “Red Lions” squadron in Iraq in 2008.
His awards include four Air Medals and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
Injured in the crash were pilot Maj. Clinton J. Collins, co-pilot Capt. Kevin F. Hayles and crew chief Cpl. Ronnie E. Brandafino.
While Hayles has joined the squadron recently, Collins has deployed with the Red Lions squadron once to Afghanistan. Brandafino, who joined the squadron in 2008, deployed with them to Iraq that year and to Afghanistan in 2010.
Collins also deployed with the Red Lions’ sister squadron, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 326, to Iraq in 2007.
The helicopter made a “hard landing” from about 300 feet on a sandbar within sight of the Heeia Kea pier, officials said.
Pearl Harbor divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 will assist in the salvage and recovery of the helicopter.
The helicopter had 1,300 gallons of JP-8 fuel on board when it went down. About 700 gallons were recovered as of yesterday evening, the Marines said.
State aquatics and environmental officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources are assessing damage to the area. A thorough assessment might may have to wait until the helicopter is removed, said Deborah Ward, DLNR spokeswoman.