1 dead, 1 missing following Navy helicopter crash off VA coast

5:31 PM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WVEC) -- The Navy says one of four crewmembers rescued when a military helicopter went down in the Atlantic off Virginia Beach has died.

Four people were rescued and one person remains missing following an emergency water landing of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter off Cape Henry Wednesday.

The helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen (HM-14) based at Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field, went down around 11 a.m.

Four of the crewmembers were found close to the floating wreckage, officials said.

A Navy helicopter hoisted them from the water within an hour of the crash and transported them to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital. Two are in stable condition and one is in surgery, Captain Todd Flannery, Commander of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic, said. The identity of the dead crewman has not been released.

Capt. Flannery said family and support personnel are at the hospital.

The Coast Guard explained how the four were rescued.

"Two Navy helos on scene dropped a raft, recovered the four and took them to the hospital," said PO1 John Miller.

Read more from the Coast Guard here

Chris Kishbaugh saw the four crewmembers getting taken off the military helicopter at Sentara Norfolk General.

"As soon as the helicopter touched ground, crews immediately hopped out of the helicopter, requesting for people to give them a hand- stretchers and things like that," he said. "A lot of the military gentlemen were hopping out of the helicopter, running towards the hospital and requesting things. Others were staying with the helicopter, opening up doors and getting them prepped out," Kishbaugh said.

Kishbaugh said one of the crewmembers didn't appear to be moving.

"The first gentleman that came out, he really didn't look all that in great of shape, they had him all bundled up. I imagine they were wet at some point. He wasn't moving very much. There wasn't much movement out of him at all," Kishbaugh said.

Navy officials said the MH-53E Sea Dragon was conducting routine training operations when it went down.

The crew consisted of two pilots and three air crewman.

The search continues for the fifth crewmember. Officials said currents and winds are affecting the wreckage.

Officials said the 87-foot patrol boat Shearwater out of Portsmouth and two boats from Station Little Creek, a 25-foot response boat small and a 45-foot response boat medium, responded.

Dave Wydert with the USCG says Shearwater was about 2 nautical miles away from the helicopter when it went down. The crew didn't see the crash but heard it and began an immediate search of the area.

The Shearwater is equipped with smaller rigid-hull inflatable boats that have "inline" motors and those RHIBs slide out of the back of the Cutter into the water. The RHIBs would be used as additional search assets.

Virginia Beach fireboats 1 and 12 are also assisting the military, officials said.

Meteorologist Evan Stewart from our Norfolk sister station WVEC says the water temperature is about 40 degrees and the air temperature 30 degrees.

Capt. Flannery said he had no comment about the safety of the helicopter. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

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