U.S. Navy Recovers Downed Helicopter From San Diego Bay

An MH-60 aircrew conducts rescue swimmer training off San Diego (USN file image)

Published Jan 15, 2024 3:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy's salvors have recovered the wreck of a helicopter that went down in San Diego Bay last week.

At about 1840 hours Thursday night, a Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter went down just off Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado. The aircraft was conducting nighttime SAR training for rescue swimmers, and there were six servicemembers on board, including two pilots and four other crewmembers.  

The service keeps safety boats on hand during these training evolutions, and the safety-boat crews rescued the helicopter aircrew members and brought them to shore. None suffered serious or life-threatening injuries, and they were all released from the hospital by the weekend.

The wreck site was boomed off to contain any possible fuel leaks, and salvors began planning to recover the airframe. At about 1200 hours Saturday, the helicopter was hoisted out of the water and placed on a barge for transfer back to shore at Naval Base Coronado.

"I am immensely proud of the teamwork and determination shown by our Sailors and civilians throughout the recovery. Most importantly, I am grateful the crew is safe, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who swiftly and effectively accomplished this significant task," said Capt. Newt McKissick, commanding officer of Naval Base Coronado.

Like all helicopters, the H-60 class does occasionally crash, often (but not always) due to human error. In a U.S. Army safety report conducted in 2021, the service determined that across all H-60 variants, 160 mishaps occurred over a five-year period, resulting in 18 fatalities and $370 million in damage. The mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours was 0.87, below the service's rotary-wing aircraft average.  

In November, an Army MH-60 went down over the Mediterranean during an aerial refueling accident, killing five special operations personnel. In August 2021, a Navy MH-60S crashed during landing aboard the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off San Diego, killing five. Both airframes were recovered by Navy salvors. 

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but the survival of all aircrew members and the full recovery of the airframe may help in the investigation.