Second Crewman Perishes From Navy Helicopter Crash; Divers, Coast Guard Continue Search For Last Sailor Lost at Sea

The Navy confirmed a second crewman has died following the crash this morning of a U.S. Navy helicopter in the Virginia Capes.

Two crew members remain hospitalized at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. One is listed in serious condition and the other has been upgraded to fair condition, according to a Navy spokesman. The Navy plans to release information about the crew 24 hours after family members have been notified of casualties.

With the fifth sailor still lost at sea, the Coast Guard called off part of search and rescue mission for the evening. Petty Officer First Class Brandyn Hill said two Coast Guard response boats that were assisting in the search and recovery effort for a downed Navy helicopter crew member were told to return to Coast Guard Station Little Creek.

Navy Cmdr. Todd Flannery, left, Cmdr. Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic, and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John K. Little, Sector Commander, as they answer questions about a crash of a Navy MH-53-E Sea Dragon helicopter into the Atlantic off Virginia Beach, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, on the tarmac at the Norfolk Naval Station, Va. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Bill Tiernan)

Hill said “the 25-foot response boat small, and the 45-foot response boat medium both have an 8-hour endurance window” before they have to return and switch out crews. The spokesman said he expects additional assets will be sent to the crash site in the morning.

The Coast Guard Cutter “Shearwater” will remain in the crash area throughout the night searching for the Sailor who crashed into the chilly Atlantic with his Navy helicopter crew at approximately 10:47 a.m.

Other units assisting the U.S. Coast Guard 87-foot patrol boat Shearwater in the search and rescue operations include the Guided Missile Destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), the salvage vessel USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51), the Amphibious Transport Dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19), and the dry cargo ship USNS Medgar Evans (T-AKE-13).

The Navy MH-53E ‘Sea Dragon’ helicopter — callsign Vulcan 543 — crashed into the 45-degree waters while the crew was conducting a “routine mine countermeasures mission,” according to Navy Air Force Atlantic Public Affairs Officer, Commander Mike Kafka. One sailor was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital this morning.

A second MH-53E from the same unit, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 (HM-14), was also conducting training in the area; Vulcan 547 flew overhead and remained on scene to provide the last known location of the crew until Navy rescue helicopters could reach the crash site.

The Navy rescue teams deployed a life raft for the injured crew members as they conducted their hoist and recovery operations. Neither Navy or Coast Guard officials knew whether the rescue lift raft remained in the water as the search operations began for the 5th crew member.

Virginia Beach Fire Department boats have located the aircraft fuselage and tail section using their side-scan radar. The Navy says an accident investigation has already been convened to determine the cause of the crash.

The Associated Press has details about the Sea Dragon and their typical mission sets.