Coast Guard says crash search in Calif. now a recovery mission
LOS ANGELES - The search for nine people missing when a US Coast Guard plane collided with a Marine Corps helicopter over the Pacific Ocean is now a recovery mission, officials said yesterday.
Petty Officer First Class Allison Conroy said there was little chance of finding survivors among the seven military personnel aboard the Coast Guard C-130 and the two in the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter.
“We always hold out some hope, but at this point the Coast Guard has suspended the active search for survivors,’’ Conroy said.
The two aircraft collided Thursday evening as the Coast Guard was searching for a missing boater. The Marine helicopter was flying in formation with another Cobra helicopter and two transports on a nighttime training exercise.
The Coast Guard has begun its investigation into the cause of the crash, Conroy said.
Kenneth Claiborne, the father of one of the missing crew members on the plane, said that his son, Marine 1st Lieutenant Thomas Claiborne, had been declared deceased. He declined to comment further and referred calls to a Marine spokesperson.
But the mother of Lieutenant Adam W. Bryant, 28, of Crewe, Va., a copilot on the Coast Guard plane, said she had not given up hope despite the Coast Guard’s announcement. “Miracles do happen,’’ Nina Bryant said yesterday.
Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo said Saturday evening that the chance for finding survivors would be slim, even though the service members had access to heat-retaining dry suits and were in excellent physical shape. Water temperatures were in the low 60s at the time of the collision.
“ The Coast Guard search for the missing boater, David Jines, 50, was called off Saturday evening.
All seven aboard the Coast Guard plane are stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sacramento, Calif. Among the other missing crew members on the plane were Lieutenant Commander Che Barnes, 35, of Capay. Calif.; Chief Petty Officer John F. Seidman, 43, of Carmichael, Calif.; Petty Officer Second Class Carl P. Grigonis, 35, of Mayfield Heights, Ohio; Petty Officer Second Class Monica L. Beacham, 29, of Decaturville, Tenn.; Petty Officer Second Class Jason S. Moletzsky, 26, of Norristown, Pa., and Petty Officer Third Class Danny R. Kreder II, 22, of Elm Mott, Texas.
Major Samuel Leigh, 35, of Belgrade, Maine, was the other Marine helicopter crew member.