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Search continues for 5 soldiers after Black Hawk copter crashes off Oahu

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An HFD boat pulled up to a Haleiwa boat ramp and Army personnel unloaded suspected helicopter crash debris. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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25th Infantry spokesman Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg holds a press conference at Haleiwa Boat Harbor. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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Ocean Safety and Lifeguard crews return back to the command center at Haleiwa Harbor. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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The command center is set up at Haleiwa Harbor. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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U.S. Army personnel set up a privacy screen on a tent where retrieved items from the crash were being investigated at the Haleiwa command center. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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Honolulu Fire Department and Honolulu Police Department vehicles were parked on the road leading to Kaena Point this morning. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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An HFD boat arrived at Haleiwa Boat Harbor this morning to fuel up. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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Four Honolulu Fire Department units, their trucks parked at Haleiwa Boat Harbor, assisted in the search for missing crew members of a downed Army Black Hawk helicopter this morning. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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Aerial view of Kaena Point State Park. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

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UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters take off during a joint air assault exercise. [MORE PHOTOS: PART 1, PART 2]

Update: 9 p.m.

The Army’s 25th Infantry Division issued a news release at 8:38 p.m., saying that search and rescue operations continue for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and its crew, but made no mention of any new findings.

The Coast Guard cutter Ahi, an 87-foot boat, and the 225-foot cutter Walnut continued searching Wednesday night, along with Coast Guard planes, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

Any debris found overnight by crews of the cutters will be transferred to the smaller Honolulu Fire Department and Coast Guard boats and transported into Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor, said Army Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division.

The cutters are too large for the harbor, he explained.

A Coast Guard C-130 plane will relieve a Navy P-3 Orion, which was scheduled to fly until midnight Wednesday, Lt. Scott Carr, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District.

Update: 4 p.m.

Gov. David Ige expressed his condolences today as rescue and recovery efforts continued for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that crashed off Kaena Point Tuesday night with five soldiers on board.

“We stand with our U.S. Army ohana during this difficult time,” Ige said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the families and unit members of the soldiers on board.”

He said the state has offered its support to search and rescue crews.

The family of one of the missing soldiers identified her as Abigail Milam of Kentucky.

No aviators have been located yet, but debris was recovered near Kaena Point by responders, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said its cutter Walnut was en route to help in the search about two miles west of Kaena Point. Already being used in the search were: an HC-130 Hercules airplane, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, the cutter Ahi, a 45-foot response boat medium, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Wheeler Army Airfield, a Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, and a P-3 Orion aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.

The Honolulu Fire Department was assisting with shore patrols and by helicopter. Also assisting were Ocean Safety crews and a crew from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Update: 2 p.m.

Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said this afternoon that the Army has notified all the families of the five soldiers who are missing after the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were flying in Tuesday night crashed into the sea off Kaena Point. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the soldiers at this difficult time,” he said at an afternoon press conference with spokesmen from other search agencies at the Haleiwa Harbor command center.

He said the Army is keeping the families updated as the search-and-rescue operation continues with participation of the Army, Coast Guard, Honolulu firefighters and city Ocean Safety lifeguards. The helicopter had two pilots and three crew members when it crashed.

Kellogg praised the multi-agency team effort to find the missing soldiers. “Everyone here is committed to this endeavor that you see before you,” he said.

He stressed that “this is still a search-and-rescue mission. We are here to bring our soldiers home to their families.”

Coast Guard Lt. Scott Carr said the search is concentrated in an area three-to-five miles east off Kaena Point where the water is about 500 to 600 feet deep. Carr said the search effort could go on overnight with two Coast Guard cutters in the water.

Lt. John Hoogsteden with Honolulu Ocean Safety, said ocean conditions included 3- to 6-foot swells and more than 20 mph winds. “It’s a pretty choppy disorganized ocean,” he said.

Update: 9:30 a.m.

Speaking at the search-and-rescue command center at Haleiwa Harbor, Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the five crew members on the downed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter are with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield.

Several large Army trucks arrived at the harbor, along with members of the Downed Aircraft Recovery Team. “If the debris comes here, we will have to deal with it,” Kellogg said.

He cautioned that if anyone finds suspected crash debris along the shoreline, they should contact local authorities and not attempt to touch it since it could contain “everything from fuel to sharp edges.” He said the helicopter was unlikely to have been carrying ordnance since it was involved in a night-training, troop-transport mission.

Kellogg said the Black Hawk can carry up to 15 people, including four crew members.

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said a rescue boat recovered some debris and turned it over to the Army at the Haleiwa boat ramp.

Also, city Ocean Safety lifeguards are assisting with the ongoing search on the north and west shorelines, a spokeswoman said.

Previous Coverage

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Honolulu Fire Department are searching this morning for five crew members of an Army Black Hawk helicopter that went down off Oahu’s Kaena Point late Tuesday.

Honolulu Fire spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said firefighters on a rescue boat are currently working with the Army to recover debris after fire rescue crews reported spotting fuselage and a helmet at about 6:17 a.m.

Honolulu’s Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services Division have launched four personal watercraft to conduct a near-shore search for the missing five-member crew.

Coast Guard officials in Honolulu said they received a call at 10:08 p.m. from Wheeler Army Airfield stating that they lost communications with one of their UH-60 Black Hawk air crews. The Coast Guard launched a rescue operation and issued an urgent marine broadcast.

“A debris field was spotted near Kaena Point by the Coast Guard Hercules and Army Black Hawk aircrews at 11:28 p.m. Tuesday. Responders are currently searching for the five missing aircrewmen,” the Coast Guard said in a news release early this morning.

Two Black Hawk crews were conducting training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield at the time communications were lost, Coast Guard officials said.

Evelyn Mallory of Ko Olina said she was on the second floor of her residence when she heard a loud “vibration” sound at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. She believes the sound may have been the Black Hawk helicopters passing her home. Mallory described the vibration sound as unusual because it was so close to her residence.

HFD was called at 12:10 a.m. to assist the Coast Guard. An HFD spokesman said they had four units responding, including a rescue boat, in a sea and shoreline search.

Firefighters and Honolulu police were at Haleiwa Harbor where HFD has set up a command center before dawn.

The Coast Guard’s responding units from Oahu include an HC-130 Hercules airplane; an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter; the Coast Guard Cutter Ahi, which is an 87-foot patrol boat; and a 45-foot Response Boat. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from Wheeler is also assisting.

The Coast Guard said weather conditions at the search scene included 11 mph winds with 2-foot seas.

Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, spokesman of the 25th Infantry Division, said two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade were involved in a routine night-training mission Tuesday night off of Kaena Point when the second helicopter lost radio and visual contact with the first helicopter.

The first helicopter was reported missing at about 9:30 p.m. The Army, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard conducted an immediate search.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said, “We are working closely with our partners to saturate that entire area.”

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks has temporarily closed Kaena Point State Park today. Park officials said there will be “no vehicle, foot, or bicycle traffic” allowed on roads and trails through the Mokuleia or the Keawaula sections of the park during the closure.

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine utility helicopter manufactured for the Army by Sikorsky Aircraft starting in the 1970s.

This is the second nighttime military helicopter crash off Oahu in less than two years.

On Jan. 14, 2016, 12 Marines were killed after two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters collided off of Oahu’s North Shore. The crash occurred at about 10:40 p.m., during a training mission. One of the two helicopters had accelerated to catch up to the first helicopter just as the first helicopter made an abrupt left into the second helicopter’s path.

Six Marines in each aircraft were killed upon impact. The collision occurred at an altitude of 1,500 feet, almost two miles off of the North Shore.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Chelsee Yee and Andrew Gomes, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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