SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Navy says five sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln were hurt when a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter plunged into the sea off the coast of San Diego Tuesday, and the search continued for five of the aircraft’s crew members the next morning.
Military officials shared the new details about the accident in a news release Wednesday, though the specific events leading to the helicopter crashing into the ocean about 60 nautical miles from the coast remained unclear.
A Navy spokesperson confirmed the helicopter had been “operating on the deck before the crash,” but told FOX 5 they couldn’t immediately clarify whether it was landing or taking off.
In whatever incident caused the aircraft to tumble into the water, five sailors from the Abraham Lincoln — separate from the crew aboard the helicopter — were hurt, the Navy said.
Further details on how they suffered the injuries were not provided, but the spokesperson said two were taken ashore for treatment while the other three had “minimal injuries” and remained aboard the aircraft carrier.
Meanwhile, a search through the night continued after sunrise Wednesday, with only one of the Seahawk’s six-person crew successfully rescued from the aircraft. That sailor “was transported ashore and is in stable condition,” the Navy said.
Five additional helicopter crew members remained missing as of 10 a.m. The Navy and U.S. Coast Guard were searching the water for signs of the service members, both in boats and by air.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed the crash Wednesday during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“I know the Navy is working diligently at search and rescue operations,” Lloyd said. “And on behalf of the whole department, I want to pass on our thoughts and prayers for the best possible outcome. It’s yet another reminder of the dangers our men and women face every day — overseas, at sea and here at home.”
Jim Kidrick, a former Navy pilot and the CEO of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, told FOX 5 Wednesday morning that getting away from the sinking aircraft safely would have been critical for the crew after the helicopter hit the water.
“The real key is: you don’t want to move until the rotor blades completely stop,” Kidrick said. “And then of course, now you’re in the water. You’ve got to orient yourself in that helicopter and find that exit to escape.”
Kidrick said he was hesitant to speculate on why exactly the aircraft went down in the first place.
“They’re going to certainly perform an extensive investigation,” Kidrick said. “They’re well-trained, they’re skilled at it, and we want to find out as best we can — because we simply don’t want these things to happen in the future. And really, the overall track record of this helicopter, having been around a long time, is very, very good.”
Kidrick noted that the MH-60S is known as a Seahawk helicopter because it is closely related to the well-known Black Hawk helicopters, which are used widely by the U.S. and other militaries.