Honolulu – The ongoing search for 12 Marines who are missing after two helicopters crashed off Hawaii entered the third day with no plans Sunday morning to call off or suspend the massive effort, the Coast Guard said.
Rescuers have been searching round-the-clock since the Coast Guard was notified late Thursday of the crash by someone who saw the aircraft disappear followed by a fireball.
The Marines were alerted when the CH-53E helicopters carrying six crew members each failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay following a nighttime training mission. Hours later, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted debris off of Oahu.
The transport helicopters were part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armored vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.
The Coast Guard initially reported that the choppers had collided, but Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said Friday that he did not know if the accident was a collision.
“We think they collided because both of them went down,” Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman who is an expert on sea survival, said Sunday from Florida.
It would have happened very quickly and survival would entail overcoming many factors. “You have to survive the crash, you have to survive the on-rushing of water,” he said, adding they would then have to battle dehydration and exposure to the elements.