Details remain very scarce, but two Marine Corps helicopters have reportedly been lost off of Oahu, according to the Marine Corps Times and other sources. A fiery debris field and an empty life raft were found in the area. The Coast Guard is executing a search and rescue effort about two and a half miles off the North Shore of the island.
Reports indicate that the two helicopters are thought to have collided while operating in the dark. Both were based out of MCAS Kaneohe Bay, and each helicopter was carrying six people. Potentially complicating search and rescue efforts are massive waves along Oahu’s North Shore, which are forecast to be the biggest of the season, raising between 30 and 40 feet today.
Although the exact type of helicopters missing remains unknown, MCAS Keneohe Bay hosts rotations of many helicopters representing the full USMC inventory on a temporary basis. It is also home to HMH-464 the “Pegasus” squadron, who operate CH-53E Sea Stallions. Additionally, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367), also known as “Scarface” Squadron, which flies UH-1Y Venom multi-role utility helicopters, as well as the AH-1Z Viper variant of the venerable Cobra attack helicopter, also calls the base home.
Update: 5:47AM PST- CBS reports that the aircraft involved were two CH-53s.
Update: 6:03AM PST- The Marine Corps Times reports that it has received a statement from the USMC stating:
“The aircraft are from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from Marine Corps Base Hawaii.”
The piece also stated:
“There was a high surf advisory in effect. Rescuers are facing 10-foot waves that were expected to rise. KHON TV in Honolulu reports witnesses in the area heard a loud boom over the water and saw a big flare in the sky. Rescuers have spotted a fire and a debris field, including an empty life raft, but no signs of survivors as of 8:30 a.m. EST.”
Update: 11:29AM PST- The search and rescue effort is still underway, although nobody has been recovered as of yet.
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