Search Called Off 12 Still Missing After 2 Marine CH-53 Helicopters Crash Off Hawaii

  • Jan 15, 2016 5:58am GMT
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LATEST UPDATE: Authorities have found 3 life rafts that were carried aboard the helicopters, but there is still no sign of the 12 crew members.

The Coast Guard confirmed they recovered the life rafts and efforts were being made to recover the fourth. Some of the rafts were inflated, but it was unclear how they came to be inflated, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers said. There is no indication that anyone was aboard the rafts, based on their condition and the lack of any personal effects, she said.

The search for the Marines entered its fourth day Monday, with plans to search into the night. Conditions have improved since the start of the search, with much smaller swells;

January 18 UPDATE: According to military officials Saturday and the Associated Press, rescuers continued to search choppy waters. There is still no word on the fate of the twelve Marines, what caused the accident, or if it even was a collision but hope remains that survivors will be found.

Rough seas are making the search difficult with winds blowing up to 23 mph and breaking surf up to 30 feet on Friday. "That is moving that debris all over the place," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Scott Carr said. "It makes finding things incredibly difficult." National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Wroe said Saturday that the surf peaked Friday afternoon and was slowly declining.

Even Honolulu lifeguards accustomed to big waves weren't able to search for long with poor morning visibility. "We are now back in the water, and we are searching," Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said. "We're very hopeful that we will still find possible survivors out there."

About two dozen Marines were seen walking up and down the beach at Waimea Bay, a popular surfing spot a few miles from the rescue operation. They appeared to be searching the area.(see photo below)

The Coast Guard was keeping people out of a wide zone that spanned about 30 miles of shoreline, from Kaena Point to Kahuku Point, citing danger from debris. The zone extended from the shore to 8 miles off the coast.

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. The helicopters normally carry a crew of 4 but this flight also carried one or two instructor trainers, Irish said. He did not know if they were teaching the crew or just observing.

Officials also released the names of the missing Marines late Saturday

— Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.

— Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

— Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis, Missouri.

— 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.