Fundraising accounts have been set up for two of the five Hawaii Army aviators missing from the Aug. 15 nighttime crash of a Black Hawk helicopter off Kaena Point as a sonar search for wreckage and the crew continues about a mile offshore.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen T. Cantrell, 32, of Wichita Falls, Texas; and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian M. Woeber, 41, of Decatur, Ala., each had three children.
Cantrell’s wife, Katie, “had her entire world turned upside down the morning she received the call that Stephen’s helicopter was lost and so was he,” a GoFundMe page set up for the family said.
“The fear of the unknown spread over days with all of us holding out hope that Stephen would be found safely,” the page said. The search for survivors was suspended Monday, “but the search for answers to the accident’s cause is ongoing.”
Cantrell “loved to fly but his family always came first. He is a cherished husband, father, son and friend. He leaves behind three beautiful, talented children: Courtney, Alysha and Travis,” the fundraising page said.
The family had just arrived in Hawaii in June.
“Although Katie was a special needs teacher’s aide at their previous duty station, she left her position to support Stephen in his career,” the page notes. “This relocation left Stephen as the sole provider for his family. Your help is needed to provide a stable, smooth and more hopeful path forward as this family faces so many big changes in addition to the loss of their father.”
The family “will have a handful of weeks to pack up, move back to the mainland, find a house and Katie will be on the lookout for a new job.”
A total of $15,765 had been raised through the fundraiser at gofundme.com/the-cantrell-family. Kate Cichy, a spokeswoman for GoFundMe, said the online organization always works “with the campaign organizer to ensure the funds get to the right place” when a family friend puts together the effort. GoFundMe takes about 8 percent of each donation for administering the campaign.
The five crew members remain classified as “duty status — whereabouts unknown,” commonly called DUSTWUN. Cantrell and Woeber were both UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots.
Also missing are aviation officer 1st Lt. Kathryn M. Bailey, 26, of Hope Mills, N.C.; and crew chiefs Staff Sgt. Abigail R. Milam, 33, of Jenkins, Ky., and Sgt. Michael L. Nelson, 30, of Antioch, Tenn. All were with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Wheeler Army Airfield.
A friend who put together a GoFundMe page for Woeber’s family said his wife, Lori, “woke to every Army wife’s worst nightmare”: realizing her husband had not made it home and opening the door to find two uniformed soldiers there to tell her that his helicopter crashed in the ocean and they were unable to locate him or anyone else on board.
“Brian was many things to many people: a soldier, a patriot, a man of God, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend. Brian was also the sole breadwinner for his family,” the page said. “Lori and Brian have three amazing boys: Jacob, Nathan and Owen. Three of the funniest, sweetest, most gifted and loving boys I have ever known. Two of the boys are on the autism spectrum and the special needs of their boys makes it pretty much impossible for Lori to work outside the home because she is so desperately needed by her boys. Especially now.”
The Woeber page, at gofundme.com/the- woeber-family, had raised $12,025 as of Thursday evening. The Cantrell page said a candlelight vigil was to be held Thursday night in Hawaii for the crew.
The Black Hawk was on a routine nighttime training mission flying some distance behind another helicopter when it disappeared without a mayday call. It was reported missing at about 9:30 p.m. Floating pieces of the fuselage and four flight crew helmets were subsequently located.
The 25th Infantry Division said its goal is the recovery of the crew and helicopter wreckage. To that end the Navy’s Mobile and Dive Salvage Unit 1 has been using a remotely operated vehicle to map the ocean floor and identify possible wreckage, the Army said.
Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, a 25th spokesman, said the search is focused more than 150 feet deep roughly a mile offshore northwest and west of Kaena Point. Kellogg said while “they have continued to find certain items that are worth looking at further, they have not actually identified anything that has necessitated them stopping what they are doing to go in and do a dive.”
None of the aviators has been recovered so far, he said. Kellogg said he expects the ocean floor sonar search to continue into next week. If a debris field or other evidence is located, “we’ll figure out the next steps as far as what assets are needed to carry on further recovery and salvage operations,” he said.