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Marines will dismantle downed copter for removal

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The Marine Corps plans to remove a downed CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter from Kaneohe Bay’s sandbar this week by cutting it up and lifting it using another helicopter from the same unit.

Cpl. Jonathan Faircloth, 22, died after the helicopter crashed at 7:20 p.m. March 29 while the pilots were doing routine night-vision goggle training and experienced a flight problem.

A private memorial for Faircloth will be held today on base. Injured in the crash were pilot Maj. Clinton J. Collins, co-pilot Capt. Kevin F. Hayles and crew chief Cpl. Ronnie E. Brandafino.

One of the injured Marines has left the hospital, but two remain at the Queen’s Medical Center, where they are recovering from their injuries, the Marines said. A release did not specify which Marine was released.

Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One have been removing smaller pieces of the Sea Stallion and plan to cut the remainder of the helicopter into two or three large sections which will be lifted from the sandbar, the Marines said yesterday.

The downed aircraft will be taken to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, where an investigation into the cause of the incident continues. The Corps said anyone who believes they have discovered a piece of aircraft debris should call base military police at 257-2123 for pickup.

The 88-foot-long, 21-ton helicopter was part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, known as the “Red Lions.”

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