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Coast Guard plane searching for 12 missing Marines hit by laser

  • CPL. RICKY S. GOMEZ / U.S. MARINE CORPS VIA AP

    This Friday photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps shows a Marine Officer attached to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 uses binoculars to search for debris of a helicopter mishap on Haliewa Beach Park.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A search vessel cruises the waters off the beach at Haleiwa, Hawaii, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Two Marine helicopters carrying 12 crew members collided off the island of Oahu during a nighttime training mission, and rescuers are searching a debris field in choppy waters, military officials said.

  • CPL. RICKY S. GOMEZ / U.S. MARINE CORPS VIA AP

    A U.S. Marine Corps officer uses binoculars to search for debris Friday after Thursday night’s crash of two Marine helicopters.

A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules crew aiding in the search for 12 missing Marines was forced to alter their course this evening after the aircraft was hit by a green laser originating from Haleiwa Beach Park.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said that had crew members been directly exposed to the laser, the aircraft would have been forced to land and the crew members examined.

Laser exposure can cause temporary blindness. Directing a laser pointer at an aircraft is a federal crime.

The incident has been reported to the police and Coast Guard investigative services.

Earlier in the evening, the U.S. Marine Corps released the names of the 12 Marines missing after two helicopters crashed off Oahu’s North Shore on Thursday. 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.

The family of Roche praised rescuers for trying to find him and the other Marines aboard the helicopters.

“We believe the Marines and Coast Guard are doing everything they can to bring Kevin and his fellow Marines home safely, and we are grateful to everyone involved in the rescue,” said a family statement distributed by brother-in-law Anthony Kuenzel in St. Louis.

» Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.

» Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24,Chaska, Minnesota.

Semolina wanted to be a Registered Nurse when he left the Marines, his uncle, Ryan Bachand, told the Associated Press.

“He was waiting to hear from a school he had applied to and was hoping to hear next week,” said Bachand, who described Semolina as an impressive young man, respectful and positive.

The family still holds out hope that he and the others missing will be found alive, Bachand said.

But as hopes have dimmed, Bachand said he would cherish memories of spending time with Semolina when Bachand was a fishing guide in northern Minnesota. “I was able to teach him how to fish,” he said.

A GoFundMe page to raise money to send Semolina’s parents to Hawaii had raised nearly $10,000 from 226 people by late this evening.

» 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.

Orlando is a flight crew chief, the Massachusetts State Police said in a statement.

The family is thanking people for their prayers. While monitoring the search effort, they are also thankful for the hard work of search and rescue crews.

» Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.

Hart lives with his wife on base in Hawaii, The Oregonian reported.

Family friend Christina Brown described Hart as upbeat and energetic and said he enjoys nature, boating and wakeboarding.

Hart’s former high school football coach and teacher, Alan Kirby, told the newspaper that Hart was a positive kid who always had a smile on his face and called him a quick learner on the gridiron.

———

Earlier in the day, the Coast Guard widened its search from the North Shore to Waianae for the 12 missing Marines.

Also, three teams of 10 Marines and firefighters were walking the shoreline from Haleiwa to Turtle Bay today, searching for survivors.

“The mission is still search and rescue,” said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Tim Irish this afternoon. “The mission’s highest priority is to recover survivors first and foremost and any type of salvage operation for the air frame is secondary.”

Among the numerous agencies searching offshore are the Coast Guard with two cutters, the Navy with two destroyers and a P-3 Orion patrol plane, and Honolulu lifeguards on personal watercraft, Irish said.

More assets were brought in today and communication between agencies has been escalating, he said.

As of this afternoon, no survivors had been found.

Two Marine Corps helicopters carrying six crew members each went down off the North Shore while on a nighttime training mission just before midnight Thursday.

The Coast Guard said today that it expanded the search to between Waianae and Kahuku and out to sea eight miles.

“We’d like to reiterate to the public to use caution along the north and west shores of Oahu as the search continues,”said Lt. Scott Carr, Coast Guard spokesman. “Debris should be treated as hazardous material.”

He asked anyone seeing debris from the crash to report it to the Marines at 808-257-8458 or 808-257-3023.

He said rescuers searched more than 5,750 square miles by 8 a.m. today, the second day of the search mission.

Carr said other assisting agencies are the Navy, Army, Honolulu Fire Department, Honolulu Police Department, and Honolulu lifeguards.

The wind and swells have diminished since Friday, but rescuers continue to battle high seas. Weather conditions are reportedly 8 to 12 mph winds, 13 foot swells with surf up to 20-feet and scattered showers, the Coast Guard said.

A high surf advisory for Oahu’s North Shore remains in effect through this evening. A small craft advisory has been issued by the National Weather Service and is in effect for all of the main Hawaiian Islands through Sunday morning.

Marines are investigating the cause of the crash.

———

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Whoever is shining lasers at Coast Guard rescue missions, you are one sick degenerate, on a level with pedophiles and puppy killers. If there is any justice on the universe, you are going to have a major case of hemorrhoids before the year is out, your social life will be your right hand and you will be laid off. That will be of course so much nicer than what could happen to you if you are caught.

  • Bachi on whoever the heck endangered the Coast Guard crew searching for these fallen Marines! better hope you never need rescuing at sea. They might not be able to come cuz.

  • I’m just curious to find out how they knew someone had used a laser. It’s an unfortunate situation, but if this is what a laser can do home here, wouldn’t they be using lasers in the Middle East to bring down many a plane?

    • If you had watched news reports on laser strikes on planes across the country, the beam can be seen coming from the ground. Problem is getting the police there fast enough to catch the low life perp.

      Combat planes in the middle east are traveling either too high or too fast for a simple hand held laser to affect the crew. Notice in the news only planes coming in for landings or flying low and slow are targeted.

      US has joined with other nations in agreeing not to use lasers as a weapon due to the ability to take away or severely degrade a person’s sight forever.

      Expect aircraft manufacturers to work on installing laser protective windows for the aircrews, laser safety eye glasses are available, not part of a pilots daily equipment yet.

    • I think you missed the key point here – they do not know that a laser was pointed at the helicopters that went down, they know it was pointed at one of the rescue planes (and it did not do any damage that has been reported, but caused it to divert temporarily). Lasers can blind pilots and are dangerous, but there is nothing (yet) to say that had anything to do with the crash. But very stupid and dangerous to point a laser at a rescue plane.

  • Could some one playing with a laser casue the two helicopters to collide? Night operations are dangerous and laser shot might have distracted pilots. We may never know. Hope they find these heros.

    • Can it? Yes it can. If one pilot had the laser in his eyes it could have caused the crash. And its not “playing”. It happens all over, I’ve read it in the paper multiple times where a laser was pointed at planes. Parents need to tell their kids not to do this, kids may not know, but adults need to be responsible. Keep the lasers away from kids and stupid adults.

      • Actually a pilot has a greater chance of being hit by a meteorite than by being hit in the eyes by a lazer. Not to downplay the danger of a lazer shot to the eye but try holding one of those things on a target 100 yards away some time and you will understand how extremely difficult it would be to hit the eye of someone flying a plane. This whole lazer panic just makes for press and detracts from the real issue of the rescue.

  • Wonder if these helicopters have data recording boxes which might help explain what happened here. I hope they have some luck today and find something. I can only imagine what the family and friends of these young men are going through.

    • My guess is they were on a training mission transporting explosives. That’s why they closed the beach. They must have flew into a low cloud and couldn’t see with the night vision goggles. Normal reaction is to slow down when you can’t see but the guys behind didn’t slow down.

  • Our hearts go out to the soldiers and to their families. Young Marines who lost their lives will never be fogotten. It saddens me when I hear Hawaiians and locals say “Get out of Hawaii! We want our lands back” They have no respect and is so ignorant, uneducated at the risk and danger our military puts themselves in everyday. At war, in training, they put their lives at risk, for our Freedom, for us Americans. And for Hawaiians to say, they are NOT American, is just a disgrace. Because these soldiers are the ones dieing for us, they are the ones protecting us, securing down the fort here in Hawaii. To the American Military, and families that services America, please disregard any rude comments by locals or Hawaiians. Some of them are just truly blatantly ignorant. I am a local American, and many of us appreciate the military’s presence here. We sure don’t want to be speaking Japanese. Many of us to young to even remember Pearl Harbor. They have an answer for everything. “Japan would have never bombed Pearl Harbor if it wasn’t for Americans being here”. I hear every stupid answer, and if and when you read or hear such rude blatant remarks, just remember, it’s their ignorance. They’d rather be drinking beer, smoking, having babies, and living off welfare and hanging down at the beach everyday. That is their ambition, and nothing else. They want money handed to them, and they think they are deserving of lands handed to them as well. That ain’t true. Anywhere in the world, that doesnt happen. If China had ruled, Hawaiians would have been murdered with their 1 baby policy. Ignore them, don’t take it seriously. Thank you USA Military for serving and protecting us. We love you, our hearts are for you and your families. Mahalo!!

    • Well said and I agree 100%. I am Hawaiian, and many of us feel the same as you do. But like you said, the ignorant ones are the ones making all the noise. Ever hear the saying “An empty can makes the most noise?” That’s what those yahoos are, empty cans. God bless our military.

  • It’s really hard to read about rescue personnel being targeted by someone with a laser without resorting to four letter expletives. It would be gratifying to read a story about that sub-human’s arrest and prosecution. It makes me really angry that someone would do that in the midst of this tragedy. I deplore this conduct.

  • Laser? Interesting. Now you’ve just given the enemy ideas how to counter our attack aircraft and drones. Computer screens with filters soon to replace ALL windows? Panoramic views of both sides outwards, front, rear, down, and side views of the plane itself from the wingtips? Ought to enable me to sleep better without people with kid’s minds opening an closing the blinds every 5 minutes.

  • I can understand why the CG would say if anyone on board had been “directly exposed” to the laser, “the aircraft would have been forced to land and the crew members examined.”

    I understand why they would say this in order to underscore the severity and total foolishness of this incident, and to warn off any copycats. This is a criminal act and perpetrators should be given exemplary punishment.

    However, it’s simply not logical to call off the search and land the plane in order to examine “the crew members” unless someone actually suffers ocular injury or more than transient symptoms. It makes sense as a warning to the public, but not medically speaking, and not in the context of this search.

    Unfortunately, a number of pilots have had this happen in recent years, but only in exceptional circumstances would the search mission actually need to be aborted.

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