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U.S. Navy Shifts to Recovery Effort for Missing Helicopter Crewmembers

navy helicopter
U.S. Navy file image

Published Sep 5, 2021 2:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has shifted to a recovery operation for the remains of five crewmembers who went missing in a helicopter crash aboard the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln last week. 

The MH-60S helicopter went down in the sea at a position about 60 nm off San Diego on Tuesday, Pacific Fleet said. A search and rescue effort with multiple Navy and Coast Guard assets began immediately, and one member of the six-person flight crew was rescued shortly after. 

The crash occurred while the helicopter was operating from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and five additional sailors aboard the vessel were injured by the crash. Two were medevaced to shore, while the other three sustained "minimal injuries."

On Saturday, the service said that it has declared the five missing members of the helicopter aircrew deceased, and U.S. 3rd Fleet's assets have shifted from a search and rescue effort to a recovery operation. 

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of five Sailors and those injured following the MH-60S helicopter tragedy off the coast of Southern California," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday in a statement. "We stand alongside their families, loved ones, and shipmates who grieve."

Out of respect for the families, the identities of the victims were withheld until after their next of kin have been notified. In an update Sunday, the Navy identified the five deceased sailors as Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey J. Tucker, 21; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31; Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31; pilot Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28; and pilot Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29.

Before ending the search, the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard carried out a 72-hour rescue effort, including 34 SAR flights, over 170 hours of flight time. Five search helicopters and multiple surface vessels contributed to the operation, the Navy said. 

An investigation into the cause of the incident is under way.