The 12 Marines killed last week when two cargo helicopters collided and crashed on the North Shore will be remembered at a memorial service today.
The service, which isn’t open to the public, will be held at 10 a.m. in the hangar at the Kaneohe Bay base where the helicopters and aircrew were stationed. The Marines said the memorial will be live-streamed on YouTube and titled “HMH-463 Honors 12 Marines in Memorial Service.” The public is asked to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m.
“Our military ohana is a vital part of our island community, closely involved with virtually every aspect of our lifestyle and culture.”
U.S. and Hawaii flags will be flown at half-staff through Tuesday.
“This is a tragic loss of 12 Marines from all over our great country and whose lives were filled with promise. In service to their country, they called Hawaii home and so the loss we feel today is like the loss of family,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said. “Their loss is also a reminder of the dangers faced by American armed service men and women throughout the world and in honoring these 12 Marines, we honor all.”
The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and aircrew, who were on a routine night training mission, belonged to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
The search to recover the downed aircraft continues, but the Marines on Thursday officially declared the Marines deceased.
“My thoughts, prayers, and aloha are with the families of the 12 U.S. Marines lost in last week’s tragedy,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. “Each Marine served our country bravely and with distinction. Our military ohana is a vital part of our island community, closely involved with virtually every aspect of our lifestyle and culture. I join the people of Hawaii in mourning their loss.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, D-Hawaii, also said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.
“As a member of the Hawaii National Guard, I know firsthand the risks our brave servicemen and women take when they answer the call of duty. We must never forget the sacrifices our troops make to protect our freedoms. I offer my sincerest sympathies to all those touched by this tragic accident,” Takai said.
None of the bodies of the 12 Marines have been found.
As salvage operations for the aircraft continue, vessels are prohibited within a mile of the crash site, which is 3 miles off the Haleiwa small boat harbor. The safety zone will remain in effect until Feb. 10 or until salvage operations are completed, the Coast Guard said.
A debris field was found on the seafloor in 325 feet of water 2 miles off Haleiwa, the area of the two helicopters’ last reported location.
Kaneohe Marines aided by the USNS Salvor, a Navy salvage vessel, and Pearl Harbor-based divers are conducting the salvage operation. All the wreckage and debris recovered will be moved to Marine Corps Base Hawaii for analysis.
The Coast Guard suspended its part of the search efforts Tuesday after covering more than 53,600 square miles of ocean and shoreline between Haleiwa and Kahuku over five days. Besides crash debris, searchers recovered four life rafts carried by the two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, which each had a crew of six.