Federal, state, and county officials are searching for a third day today for 12 Marines who are missing after the two helicopters they were in crashed off Oahu.
Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, commanding general of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, who flew to Honolulu today from Okinawa for the search, said the top priority is taking care of the missing Marines and their families.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with those Marine families out there,” Sanborn said at a press conference outside the search command post at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park. “The Marine Corps and me personally are here for them and to support them in any way we can.”
He also thanked the public for its support and to local first responders assisting in the search.
Sanborn, who was missing for several days after an aircraft crash in Desert Storm, said he and his wife understand the emotional rollercoaster the families are probably going through.
“We just want to let know that we’re here,” he said. “We’re here to put our arms around them and hug them, and let them know we love them. We’re going to do everything we can to support them.”
Coast Guard Capt. Jim Jenkins said the search effort on Sunday included Navy ships and aircraft, an Army helicopter, a Coast Guard patrol boat and a helicopter, lifeguards, police, firefighters, and the National Guard. About 45 Marines were searching the shoreline by foot, looking for debris.
The Coast Guard, who is leading the search, has been searching 24 hours a day since the crash was reported Thursday night.
He said the Coast Guard is using computer models to determine drift patterns and lay down search patterns. By the end of today, the Coast Guard will have completed 75 sorties and covered 15,000 square miles of search efforts.
The Coast Guard was searching from Kaena Point to Kahuku.
“We’re dedicated to trying to locate and bring back these service members and we’ll continue our efforts throughout today,” Jenkins said.
Lifeguards on personal watercraft also searched 160 miles from Kahuku to Haleiwa Since the search began, said Shayne Enright, Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman. She said search conditions were more favorable today and lifeguards would continue searching with two personal watercraft. An ambulance was also on standby at the beach park.
Jenkins said some debris consistent with the type of aircraft the Marines were in has been collected and turned over to the Marines who are investigating the cause of the crash.
The Marines said the helicopters did not have beacons onboard similar to those found on commercial airliners.
Jenkins said the Coast Guard has protocol for how long to search for survivors and will notify family members before ending the search.
“Everyday we analyze what we’ve done, we analyze the likelihood of any survivors and we’ll continue our efforts as long as needed,” he said.
On Saturday, the U.S. Marine Corps released the names of the 12 Marines. They are:
» Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.
» Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
» Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis, Missouri.
» Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.
» Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24,Chaska, Minnesota.
» Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania.
» Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.
» Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama.
» Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas.
» Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida.
» Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts.
» Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.
Anyone seeing debris from the crash is asked to report it to the Marines at 808-257-8458 or 808-257-3023.