‘It’s heartbreaking:’ Military accident investigator explains switch from search and rescue to recovery efforts

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SAN DIEGO — As the Navy identified five service members killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of San Diego, a former military aircraft accident investigator spoke to FOX 5 about the decision to switch from a search and rescue to recovery efforts.

The five fallen service members were part of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8 based out of NAS North Island. Their helicopter went down roughly 60 nautical miles offshore on Tuesday, with the crash happening from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

On Saturday, the Navy announced it was switching from a search and rescue mission to recovery efforts.

“It’s heartbreaking and to have to give up and say ‘Yea, we don’t have any more hope for survivors’ is just very, very discouraging,” said Richard Martindell, a retired military aircraft accident investigator.

Martindell says the switch happens when there is no possibility of survival.

“They’re still searching for bodies,” he said. “They are also searching for the aircraft because there could be things in or on the aircraft that would give them some insight on what went wrong.”

Martindell added that historically, the military has lost more aircraft in training than they have ever lost in combat.

“If they can find the aircraft, that would be good for the families,” he said.

Meanwhile, USS Abraham Lincoln posted about the fallen on its page saying, “Fair winds and following seas shipmates. Your watch stands relieved.”

The Navy is investigating the cause of the crash.

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