Coast Guard suspends active search, remains on scene of crash - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Coast Guard suspends active search, remains on scene of chopper crash

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A MH-53E Sea Dragon, similar to this one, crashed off the coast of Virginia on Wednesday. (Source: U.S. Navy) A MH-53E Sea Dragon, similar to this one, crashed off the coast of Virginia on Wednesday. (Source: U.S. Navy)

(RNN) - With one crew member still unaccounted for, the Coast Guard has suspended their active search efforts but will remain on scene as long as the Navy needs them after a military helicopter crashed off the coast of Virginia.

Lt. Wesley Vandorn, 29, and Petty Officer 3rd class Brian Collins, 25, were killed after a U.S. Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed during a training mission off the coast of Norfolk, VA, on Wednesday. The helicopter was about 18 nautical miles off the coast when it went down.

Two other crew members were hospitalized after the crash.

One of the injured crew members left the hospital Thursday afternoon, and the other is expected to leave Friday.

The Coast Guard and Virginia Beach Fire and Rescue searched for the fifth crew member for more than 30 hours.

Two helicopters from the squadron based in Norfolk were involved in the mine countermeasure training operation.

A distress call was made at about 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, and the craft went down off the coast near Fort Story, which is a naval base.

Capt. John Little, of the Coast Guard, said the cutter Shearwater, a coastal patrol boat, was nearby conducting operations, and no one saw the crash but heard it.

The cutter immediately responded to the distress call and deployed rescue craft. The temperature in the water was reportedly 42 degrees Wednesday. The helicopter crew members were wearing anti-exposure suits designed to keep water away from the body.

According to the Naval Air Systems Command website, the MH-53E is mainly used to find mines and can operate from carriers. It can carry up to 55 troops or a 16-ton payload, according to the U.S. Navy. They are also used in heavy-lift operations.

The MH-53E is about 99 feet long, weighs about 69,750 pounds, and can travel up to 172 mph. The crew can consist of two pilots and up to six aircrew, according to the Naval Air Systems Command.

According to the Hampton Roads Pilot, the Navy had planned to phase out the Sea Dragons, but did not have replacement ready, so the helicopters were upgraded.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force helicopter crashed on the coast of southern England, killing the four people on board.

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