OAHU, Hawaii – Rescuers have expanded their search for 12 Marines missing since their two military helicopters apparently collided in the waters off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
A Navy ship equipped with sonar was expected to arrive Sunday to conduct an underwater search. The Coast Guard said the search has widened along the North Shore and extends at least eight miles out to sea.
It warned people along the coast to alert the Marines if they find any debris along the coast. The area is a popular surfing destination and surfers were told to avoid any debris in the water.
Coast Guard Capt. James Jenkins said that some debris has been collected, consistent with the types of aircraft missing, but that it’s still coming in, and that he couldn’t comment further.
When asked about the possibility of a laser having played a role in the apparent crash, Jenkins said answering at this point would be speculative. The focus right now, he said, is on the search-and-rescue effort.
“We are still searching for survivors. That’s an important point to make,” he told reporters.
The two CH-53 copters appear to have gone down during a training flight off the Hawaii island of Oahu late Thursday, authorities said. No mayday call was received, just word that something had gone wrong, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Scott Carr said.
A civilian on the beach first told authorities of seeing a fireball, followed by a second person reporting a flare.
Searchers spotted a fire and debris field, including an empty life raft, about 2 1/2 miles north of Haleiwa Beach and later floating pieces of debris consistent with military aircraft.
Six people were on board each of the heavy-lift transport helicopters.
Corps names Marines
The Marine Corps has named the 12 missing men. Base Hawaii named them as:
Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas
Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia
Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis
Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama
Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24, Chaska, Minnesota
Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania
Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina
Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama
Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas
Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida
Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts
Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines and their families as we continue search and rescue efforts,” Base Hawaii said.
Loved ones of missing
Sgt. Schoeller’s family released a statement saying it is sill optimistic. “There are thousands praying for a positive outcome for these Marines, and the search and rescue efforts. We value all of the thoughts and prayers offered up on our behalf during this very difficult time.”
Cpl. Orlando’s family asked for prayers for him and the other missing Marines. “We would like to thank everyone who continues to pray and send their expressions of concern and love for the safe return of United States Marine Corps Corporal Christopher Orlando and his fellow Marines,” they said.
Capt. Roche’s family described him as a passionate Marine. “We believe the Marines and Coast Guard are doing everything they can to bring Kevin and his fellow Marines home safely and we are grateful to everyone involved in the rescue,” they said in a statement.
Maj. Campbell’s mother, Donna McGrew said a Marine officer visited her at home to brief her. Campbell has a wife and four children, and has done three tours of duty in the Middle East.
“My heart just breaks, there are 11 other families going through this now. God bless them,” McGrew said.