Navy ends search for 3 missing crewmen from helicopter

Monday, January 29, 2007

SAN DIEGO -- The Navy called off a search Saturday for three missing crew members of a helicopter that crashed in the ocean about 50 miles off California's southern coast.

Friday's crash during a training mission left one sailor dead, and the Navy had searched for the remaining crew through the night and into Saturday afternoon.

"The cold water temperature and the time that elapsed since the crash occurred led Navy officials to conclude that aircrew survivability is extremely unlikely," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Meydenbauer.

Meydenbauer said the Navy knew the location of the sunken helicopter, but had not decided whether the wreckage would be brought up from the ocean floor.

The MH-60S Sierra helicopter, based at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, went down around 4:30 p.m. Friday. It was on a mission off the USS Bonhomme Richard.

The pilot radioed a mayday but gave no indications of mechanical malfunctions or fire, Meydenbauer said.

One sailor was pulled from the water but died while being treated on the Bonhomme Richard.

Identities of the helicopter crew members would not be released until relatives were notified, Meydenbauer said.

However, Jim Helman of New Richmond, Wis., said Navy officials informed him that his son, Cory Helman, 27, was one of the crew members and had pronounced him dead.

The Bonhomme Richard is an amphibious assault craft that took Marines to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami.

The MH-60 Sierra is a twin-turbine craft based on the UH-60L Black Hawk and the Navy's SH-60B Seahawk, according to the manufacturer, United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft. It is designed to operate off aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and frigates, ranging up to 100 nautical miles from a ship.

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