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Marines, families hopeful amid ‘exhausting’ search

  • Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

    A police officer in the Kaena Point area scanned the high surf Saturday for debris from a crash involving two Marine helicopters. Twelve Marines remain missing from Thursday night’s crash.

  • Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

    Marines built a portable structure for their command center at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park.

  • Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

    Two Coast Guard cutters and two Navy destroyers searched an area between Waianae and Kahuku for debris from Thursday night’s helicopter crash. The search was hampered by high surf.

Rescuers planned to continue searching overnight Saturday for 12 Marines still missing after two helicopters crashed off Oahu.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard widened its search to cover Waianae to Kahuku and 8 miles out to sea.

Lt. Scott Carr, Coast Guard spokesman, said debris consistent with the type of military aircraft that crashed has been recovered over a wide area. Some washed up on shore and some was recovered by Navy ships.

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

No survivors have been found, but the Marine Corps remains hopeful, said spokesman Capt. Alex Lim.

Thirty Marines searched the coastline on foot from Kaena Point to Turtle Bay on Saturday and additional Marines will resume the shoreline search for debris today, Lim said.

He praised the coordination between multiple agencies helping in the search and stationed at the command post at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, which was closed to the public. Assisting agencies include the Coast Guard, Honolulu firefighters, police, county lifeguards, the Army, Navy and Air Force.

About 3 p.m., police responded to a report of human remains at Kahana Bay in Windward Oahu, but the remains turned out to be the innards of an animal, possibly a pig, police said. Marines checked out the report and determined they were unrelated to the search.

Rough ocean conditions posed a challenge for rescuers with seas larger than 16 feet and surf more than 20 feet.

“That certainly makes it harder to find the target and it’s physically exhausting,” Carr said.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard searched with two cutters, the Navy had two destroyers and a P-3 Orion patrol plane scouring the area, and Honolulu lifeguards scanned the surf on personal watercraft.

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

The epicenter of the search was about 2 miles offshore of Haleiwa, where first responders found a debris field and fuel on the water, Carr said.

“We’re very confident that is the last known position of the aircraft” based on visual reports and the findings of the first responders, he said. But drift is now a factor.

He said the Coast Guard planned to search overnight with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a C-130 Hercules plane.

A high-surf warning for Oahu’s North Shore was in effect until 6 a.m. today, along with a small-craft advisory for all of the main Hawaiian islands.

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

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

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the Marines on Saturday released the names of the missing: Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas; Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia; Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis; Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Ala.; Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24, Chaska, Minn.; Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pa.; Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, S.C.; Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Ala.; Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas; Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Fla.; Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Mass.; and Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Ore.

The uncle of Semolina said the 24-year-old wanted to be a registered nurse when he left the Marines.

“He was waiting to hear from a school he had applied to and was hoping to hear next week,” said his uncle, Ryan Bachand.

Semolina is an impressive young man, respectful and positive, Bachand said. He had been a good football player at Delano (Minn.) High School.

The family still holds out hope that he and 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 to be near where Semolina went missing had raised more than $10,000 from 229 people by late Saturday.

The Massachusetts State Police released a statement from Orlando’s family on Saturday, saying they are monitoring the search effort and are thankful for the hard work of search and rescue crews. Orlando is a helicopter flight crew chief.

The family of Roche, 30, 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.

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 Oregonian newspaper that he was a positive kid who always had a smile on his face; he called Hart a quick learner on the gridiron.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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