Coast Guard officials announced today that they are suspending the nearly week-long active search for five Army aviators who went missing Tuesday night when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed into the ocean about 2 miles west off of Kaena Point.
The Army also formally identified the crew members today as:
>> 1st Lt. Kathryn M. Bailey, 26, of Hope Mills, N.C.;
>> Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian M. Woeber, 41, Decatur, Ala.;
>> Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen T. Cantrell, 32, Wichita Falls, Texas;
>> Staff Sgt. Abigail R. Milam, 33, Jenkins, Ky.;
>> And Sgt. Michael L. Nelson, 30, Antioch, Tenn.
Army officials have listed the status of the missing soldiers as “duty status—whereabouts unknown,” signifying that they cannot be located but have not been confirmed as deceased.
“A decision to suspend searching without finding survivors is extremely difficult given the depth of its impact and I know I speak for the entire Coast Guard when I say our thoughts and prayers are with Army helicopter squadron and particularly with families and loved ones of those missing,” Rear Adm. Vincent B. Atkins, commander of the Coast Guard’s 14th District, said at a noon news conference today. “I want to thank all our partners, the Navy, Army, the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources, Fire, Police and Ocean Safety for their extraordinary efforts. As we suspend the search we stand ready to support any future operations the Army conducts, and continue to provide any comfort we can for those suffering from this tragic loss.”
Families of the missing soldiers were notified about the search suspension before reporters were told at the news conference and there has been no determination yet of the crash’s cause, said Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.
Coast Guard officials said the search involved an area of more than 72,575 square nautical miles, 0r 96,110 square statute miles, in more than 132 separate searches. The search area began off of Kaena Point, Oahu, but extended west beyond Kauai and Niihau, they said.
The Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is out today about a mile offshore northwest of Kaena Point with a remotely operated vehicle in waters at least 150 feet deep looking for helicopter wreckage and mapping the bottom topography as the search-and-rescue mission transforms into a recovery effort, officials said.
The Coast Guard search began late Tuesday night after Wheeler Army Airfield officials reported that they had lost communication with one of two UH-60 Black Hawk aircrews during routine nighttime training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.