Friends and family paid their respects to Marine Cpl. Jonathan D. Faircloth during a private memorial service yesterday at the Kaneohe Bay base chapel that included an upturned M-16 rifle topped by his aviator’s helmet.
Faircloth, 22, an aerial observer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, died after the CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter he was in crashed at 7:20 p.m. March 29 on the Kaneohe Bay sandbar while the pilots were doing routine flight training with night-vision goggles and the chopper experienced a problem.
“Yesterday’s memorial service was a very important part of the healing process for the Marines, a way for us to remember what a great friend and great Marine we had in Jonathan Faircloth, and for his wife and family to know how much he meant to us.” said Lt. Col. Mark Revor, commanding officer of Squadron 363.
The Marines plan to remove the 21-ton helicopter from the sandbar around 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. Officials said it was cut into two pieces, and a CH-53D from the same unit, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, will be used to airlift the downed chopper to the Marine Corps base.
From there, it will be taken to a hangar for inspection as an investigation continues into what caused the crash minutes after the 88-foot-long chopper took off.
Three CH-53D squadrons with 10 of the aging helicopters apiece are based at Kaneohe Bay. A base official said the helicopters were not grounded after the crash.
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 was released, but two remain at the Queen’s Medical Center, the Marines said. A base official said she did not know which Marine had been released.
Faircloth, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., had joined HMH-363 in April of 2007 and deployed with the squadron to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2010. He lived on base with his wife, Alicia.
His brother, James, told CBS 21 News in Pennsylvania, “Jon, Jon he’s funny, he always made you laugh, he always did stupid stuff. He was a true gentleman. He was loving, he was tenderhearted (and) he would help anybody.”
On his MySpace page, Jon Faircloth had written, “I’m down for most of everything, I love anything outside and seeing new sites (sic) that haven’t been looked on by a lot of people.”
Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One removed smaller pieces of the Sea Stallion and cut the remainder of the helicopter into two sections, officials said.