U.S. Coast Guard officials announced they have found, recovered and identified a total of three bodies of crew members of the deadly helicopter crash in Mobile Bay that was part of a training exercise Tuesday night.
Rescuers said that the remains of Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor of Snow Hill, N.C.; and Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron of Portland, Ore., Thursday, reported The Associated Press. Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge was found shortly after the incident, but he was unresponsive and later pronounced dead. One crew member is still missing.
The decision to suspend the active search was terribly difficult, said Capt. Donald J. Rose, a Coast Guard commander, reported The Associated Press. We saturated 95 percent of Mobile Bay for nearly two days with both aircraft and boats to thoroughly cover the search area. Now, we must shift our focus to continuing salvage and recovery operations. As we continue to recover wreckage, we will look for the missing crewman.
Although poor visibility and weather has hampered the salvage-rescue mission, officials said they've recovered the helicopter's tail section and main fuselage on Wednesday, the L.A. Times said.
Civilians and emergency responders from surrounding counties have pitched in to help with the search and recovery effort. A towing vessel named the Ben R. Johnson was dispatched on Wednesday to help pull wreckage from the water.
The twin-engine, single-rotor helicopter ran into trouble Tuesday evening while flying over the choppy bay near Point Clear, Ala., just after leaving an aviation training center in nearby Mobile. The Coast Guard said the crewmen had extensive survival training and were equipped with a dry suit. The helicopter usually carries two pilots, a flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer, the AP reported.
The helicopter, a MH-65C, crashed Tuesday night while on a mission from the Aviation Training Center at Mobile Regional Airport, a statement from the Coast Guard said. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.