Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, US Army: Accident occurred August 15, 2017 near Oahu, Hawaii



HONOLULU – Army officials have spent days sifting through chunks of Black Hawk helicopter debris in turbulent Pacific waters off Hawaii but have yet to see any signs of life in their search for five soldiers missing since the aircraft crashed during nighttime training on Tuesday. 

The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday it is searching up to 50 miles off the remote point where the Black Hawk helicopter crashed west of Oahu.

Firefighters found and collected what appeared to be pieces of helicopter fuselage and a helmet earlier in the week. The Coast Guard said responders continue to find debris, but didn’t have specifics on what kind.

The Navy brought remotely operated underwater vehicles and sonar to help. On Friday, they searched waters about 1 mile off the coast, said Lt. Col. Curits Kellogg, a spokesman for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

Shifting waters and swift currents spread debris from 2 miles off shore on Tuesday night to an expanded search area of at least 50 miles on Thursday.

The ocean floor drops quickly off Oahu and varies throughout the search area. It is over 1,000 feet deep at the center of a safety zone established by the Coast Guard for the search.

The safety zone extends from a 5-mile radius around the last known location of the helicopter. The Coast Guard set it up because it’s likely to have a higher concentration of debris and be where most of the search aircraft and vessels are operating. It’s not allowing civilians to enter the area.

A Coast Guard HC-130 plane helping with the search was using radar that’s designed to search the surface of the ocean, said spokeswoman Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir. An MH-65 helicopter was using infrared technology, she said.

Asked whether sharks would be a concern, Muir said there were marine predators in the area.

“That is expected and perfectly normal for this region,” she said.

Master Sgt. Peter Mayes, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said all five crew members had life vests and an air bottle for underwater breathing. There was no life raft on board the helicopter, however. That’s because operating procedure only calls for rafts when non-crew member soldiers or people without life vests are on board.

All Black Hawk crews undergo underwater crash and survival training before they come to Hawaii, Mayes said. Soldiers simulate being on board a helicopter that’s crashed into the water and learn how to free themselves.

Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman and expert on sea survival, said how long people survive in the water depends on their age, weight and health in addition to water and air temperatures.

Searches in colder climates where water drops below 60 degrees may get called off after a day. In Hawaii, they often last longer. Last year, a search for 12 Marines who went missing after two helicopters collided off Hawaii lasted five days. Remains of nine Marines were found. Three were never recovered.

The recovery of debris indicates the Black Hawk hit the water uncontrolled, Vittone said. This would mean there’s a low probability anyone survived but he said the rescuers can’t and don’t assume that.

The two Black Hawk crews were conducting training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost.

The two helicopters are part of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade based in Hawaii.

http://www.spokesman.com


HONOLULU (AP) — All five crew members aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed over the Pacific had life vests and an air bottle for underwater breathing, but Army officials and rescuers searching the turbulent waters off Hawaii for days had not seen signs of life as of late Friday.

Crews of Black Hawk helicopters undergo underwater crash and survival training before they come to Hawaii, said Master Sgt. Peter Mayes, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division. Soldiers simulate being on board a helicopter that has crashed into the water and learn how to free themselves.

Mayes said there was no life raft on board the helicopter because operating procedure only calls for rafts when non-crew member soldiers or people without life vests are on board.

Army officials have spent days sifting through chunks of helicopter debris since the aircraft crashed during nighttime training Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday it is searching up to 50 miles off the remote point where the UH-60 helicopter crashed west of Oahu.

Firefighters found and collected what appeared to be pieces of helicopter fuselage and a helmet earlier in the week. The Coast Guard said responders continue to find debris, but didn’t have specifics on what kind.

The Navy brought remotely operated underwater vehicles and sonar to help. On Friday, they searched waters about 1 mile off the coast, said Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, a spokesman for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

Shifting waters and swift currents spread debris from 2 miles off shore on Tuesday night to an expanded search area of at least 50 miles Thursday.

The ocean floor drops quickly off Oahu and varies throughout the search area. It is over 1,000 feet deep at the center of a safety zone established by the Coast Guard for the search. The safety zone extends from a 5-mile radius around the last known location of the helicopter. The Coast Guard set it up because it’s likely to have a higher concentration of debris and be where most of the search aircraft and vessels are operating. It’s not allowing civilians to enter the area.

Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman and expert on sea survival, said how long people survive in the water depends on their age, weight and health in addition to water and air temperatures.

Searches in colder climates where water drops below 60 degrees might get called off after a day. In Hawaii, they often last longer. Last year, a search for 12 Marines who went missing after two helicopters collided off Hawaii lasted five days. Remains of nine Marines were found. Three were never recovered.

The recovery of debris indicates the Black Hawk hit the water uncontrolled, Vittone said. This would mean there’s a low probability anyone survived but he said the rescuers can’t and don’t assume that.

The two Black Hawk crews were conducting training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost. The helicopters are part of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade based in Hawaii.

http://www.newsherald.com



Search and rescue crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, Army, Honolulu Fire Department, and Ocean Safety are responding to a report of a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter approximately two miles west of Kaena Point, Oahu, Wednesday.

Two UH-60s from the 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade were taking part in a routine training mission when the second helicopter lost radio and visual contact with the first. The helicopter was reported missing at around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Five soldiers were on board at the time — two pilots and three crew members. Military officials confirm all were members of the 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield.

The helicopters were conducting training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield at the time communications were lost.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center in Honolulu received a call at 10:08 p.m. Tuesday from personnel at Wheeler Army Airfield stating they lost communications with one of their UH-60 Black Hawk aircrews. Watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast and directed the launch of response assets.

“Our aviation assets as well as all our soldiers train at night. That’s what we do. It’s one of our key competencies to train at night and that’s what these air crews were doing,” explained Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, 25th Infantry Division.

“The second helicopter crew did an initial pass to see if they could recover contact with the aircraft, and then again standard procedure for us to have two aircraft in the air to assist and for safety, notified Wheeler Air Field, and then we went and picked up some support and came back out, in that interim contact with the Coast Guard and everything else,” Kellogg said.

When asked if a mayday call was received, he replied, “I’m not aware of any, but I don’t have the specifics and I won’t get into a lot of specifics, because there will be an investigation into this particular incident.”

Debris field found

Search-and-rescue efforts are focused around a debris field roughly five miles off Kaena Point by the Coast Guard Hercules and Army Black Hawk aircrews at 11:28 p.m. Tuesday.

So far, what appears to be a fuselage and a helmet were discovered in the area.

“Out there you mostly get converging currents that move in all directions,” said Lt. Scott Carr, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “Near shore, you get a swirling factor, but for the most part with the winds, we’re seeing debris move to the west, so we have positioned our offshore search-and-rescue assets out a little further. Of course HFD is taking that area about three to five miles offshore and Ocean Safety will work in closer to shore with their jet ski crews.”

“As we pick up debris, we’ll bring that back here and we’ll assemble that, but investigators will eventually delve into what may or may not have caused this,” Kellogg said. “Initially, obviously, we’re going to bring it back and secure it at Wheeler airfield, but as far as beyond that, I don’t have any other information to provide.”

Combat Aviation Brigade officials notified and remain in contact with all affected family members.

The State Dept. of Land and Natural Resources closed Kaena Point State Park to car, foot, and bicycle traffic as the investigation continues.

Lt. John Hoogsteden, Ocean Safety Division, says four ocean safety units are involved in search-and-rescue efforts. Conditions were 3- to 6-foot seas with strong, east-northeast trade winds. “It’s a pretty choppy, disorganized ocean,” he said.

Carr says the operation will continue through nightfall and overnight with Coast Guard cutters Ahi and Walnut. “As far as aviation assets, we’ll have to make that determination take a look at crew and see what we can do.”

Officials say some debris may start to appear on the shoreline, so if you see anything that looks like it could be plane debris, you are asked to call the U.S. Coast Guard.

“There is always a chance that debris can wash up on shore and be found by people in the community as they walk on the beach or even recreational boaters as they’re out on the water,” said Kellogg. “Let them know where that debris is, and I would ask that they please do not handle it for their own safety and the integrity of the investigation which is being initiated for this incident.”

The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is a transport aircraft designed to move packs and equipment. It can seat up to 11 passengers and four crew members.

Responding are:

HC-130 Hercules airplane aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point
MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point
Coast Guard Cutter Ahi (WPB 87364) and crew, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Honolulu
45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter aircrew from Wheeler Army Airfield
Shore patrol and a boat crew from Honolulu Fire Department and Ocean Safety

http://khon2.com









NORTH SHORE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scores of rescuers are searching by air and sea for an Army helicopter with five people on board that crashed about two miles off Oahu late Tuesday.

The military has confirmed that the five missing are all active duty soldiers out of Wheeler Army Airfield's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. 

A portion of the chopper's fuselage was spotted in the water about 7 a.m.

The Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Wheeler Army Airfield went down about two miles off Kaena Point about 10:08 p.m.

Officials said they lost communications with the helicopter as it and another Black Hawk aircrew were conducting a training mission between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield.

Coast Guard, Army, Marine and Honolulu Fire Department rescue crews were deployed, and a debris field was spotted by air about 11:28 p.m. Tuesday.

Honolulu Fire Battalion Chief Paul Fukuda said some debris was recovered early Wednesday.

"It's so spread out and with the darkness, it's hard to say how big the debris field was," he said.

Searching for the downed chopper are a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Barbers Point, an Army aircrew, and boats from the Coast Guard and Honolulu Fire Department.

"Right now we're currently focused on the search for the missing crew members," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle. "These are trained aircrew, and we're working with our partners to saturate that area."

In addition, HFD said firefighters walked the shoreline to Kaena Point, looking for any signs of wreckage.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Kaena Point is closed to the public until further notice, meaning no vehicle, foot or bicycle traffic is allowed on roads and trails through the Mokuleia or Keawaula entrances.

Lt Col. Curtis Kellogg, public affairs officer with the 25th Infantry Division, told the AP that nighttime chopper training offshore is routine.

The search for the helicopter began immediately after the aircrew lost visual and video contact with the other helicopter, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, the winds offshore were about 11 mph with 2-foot seas.

The two helicopters are elements of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine utility helicopter manufactured for the Army by Sikorsky Aircraft starting in the 1970s.

The Army has 2,300 Black Hawk helicopters; the choppers are the branch's primary medium lift utility transport and air assault aircraft. The Army also uses Black Hawks for medical airlifting and to deliver emergency supplies during natural disasters.

The Black Hawk is used by 26 other countries besides the U.S., including Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines. Newer versions of the helicopter are designed to fly higher and can carry more than older versions. 

The last military helicopter crash in Hawaii happened in January 2016, when 12 Marines were killed after two Super Stallion choppers went down off Haleiwa. 

Story and video ➤ http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com

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