CH-53E Super Stallion (file photo courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)
U.S. Coast Guard District 14 in Honolulu, Hawaii said Friday that it received notification of two downed military helicopters off Oahu late Thursday night.
Media sources report that the incident was the result of a collision between the two aircraft.
The District dispatched helicopter and fixed wing aircrews from Air Station Barbers Point and requested the assistance of local authorities in the search. The initial report was received at 11:38 PM and the first Coast Guard helicopter was on scene just after midnight; its crew observed a debris field at the search scene about three miles off Haleiwa, on Oahu’s north shore, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers in a statement to media.
USCG, U.S. Navy and Honolulu Fire Department assets are participating in the SAR effort. In addition to locally based assets, the USCG has directed the cutters Ahi and Kisko to get underway to join in. The Ahi was in Maui at the time of the incident; the Kiska was in Hilo.
The Marine Corps is investigating the cause of the incident. In a statement Friday, Marine Corps Captain Tim Irish of the III Marine Expeditionary Force confirmed the crash and ongoing SAR effort.
The two helicopters were CH-53E Super Stallions of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, MAG 24, First Marine Aircraft Wing from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, carrying a combined total of 12 Marines.
Marine Corps aircraft will be joining the search.
Authorities requested that the public should not touch any debris that washes ashore and to stay back from any cordons that first responders may establish.
The CH-53E is the largest and heaviest helicopter used by American military forces. It will be replaced by the new CH-53K; flight testing of the new variant is under way and deployment is planned for 2018.