Camp Lejeune, NC Marine Helicopter Crash, Oct 1985



Jacksonville, N.C. (AP) -- A team of divers hovering overhead was able to "immediately" reach a helicopter that crashed into the ocean after taking off from a ship, but 15 Marines aboard died in the corps' second-worst aircraft accident, officials say.
Four others were rescued Tuesday when their twin-rotor, Marine CH-46D "Sea Knight" helicopter with 19 people aboard, crashed and sank on takeoff from the USS Guadalcanal.
"This is the second-worst aircraft accident in Marine Corps history," said Gunnery Sgt. John Simmons. "The worst was a CH-53D crash in the Sea of Japan" in May, in which all 17 people aboard were killed.
The helicopter was participating in an exercise with the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit, he said. The CH-46 is the principal assault helicopter of the Marine Corps and also is used extensively by the Navy to carry cargo and passngers between ships and shore.
"It's a very safe aircraft for us. It's real good. It's been in the inventory since Vietnam," Simmons said, adding he had no details of the crash.
"It left the ship flying over the water and crashed,"
he said.
Simmons said a search-and-rescue helicopter with divers aboard was in the air over the ship when the helicopter crashed early Tuesday, so divers were able to get to the wreckage
Simmons said 12 of the casualties were Marine troops aboard the helicopter and three others were crew members.
Four Marines were pulled from the choppy waters around the Guadalcanal an one body was found. Navy and Marine diers searched for the 14 missing Marines, whose bodies were found Tuesday afternoon, Simmons said. The bodies were taken to the naval hospital at Camp Lejeune.
The helicopter wreckage would be removed from the ocean floor and taken to either New River Air Station or Cherry Pont Marine Air Station for examination by the Marie Aircraft Mishap Board, he said. "They will dismantle it and look at it with a fine-tooth comb."
Early this morning, all the injured were in good condition at a medical dispensary aboard the Guadalcanal, said Sgt. Pamela Vajner.
The passengers and crw are based at Camp Lejeune and its New River Air Station, said Staff Sgt. Terry Ruggles, also of the Camp Lejeune public affairs office.
The accident occurred not far from the Marine Corps Onslow Beach, just east of Camps Geiger and Lejeune, where Marines practice beachlandings, but the Marines said the ship's exact location wasn't known.
The Guadalcanal carries a crew of 650 and up to 2,000 troops, Simmons said.

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Survivor of Helocopter Crash

Hi Steve, I am one of the survivors of that helicopter crash. My best friend Dwayne Thompson was Chaplain Ledbetters 'RA" I think it was called. His personal assistant/helper. I Can't remember. It has been awhile. We loved him very much and miss him. If you want to ask me or Dwayne any questions please let me know. Mike

Navy Chaplain Lt Robert Ledbetter helicopter crash

He is my uncle. I remember his funeral and service. I was in middle school and wanted to be in the Navy bc of his and my other uncles' Navy service. I have his funeral flag on display now in my house. I think of him often and wish I had had more time with him. God bless the Marine that posted last year about feeling guilty that he was not with the group in the crash. God has a larger plan for us all. I look forward to seeing my uncle Bobby again in heaven next to my son, his namesake, whom we lost last year after a complicated pregnancy and delivery.
Steve Kurczak
Nephew to Chaplain Ledbettet.

help crash

I watched that crash from the deck of the USS lpd Ponce and I was on a 46 inland by 4:00 that afternoon a terrible loss of marines.

A day I will never forget

I was fabed out from Kilo Co.3rd. Bat.4th Mar. assisting the Dep.of the Navy aboard the ship with Combat Cargo.I can remember that morning as if yesterday because I was the one to take them up thru I believe shelter area 3 a passage way to lead up to the flight deck it happen to be I believe 0:6:05 it was pitch black dark we were taking sticks up in intervals I got them on the help then before I could go down to get another stick a loud alarm went off and on the blow horn loud and clear came in This is not a drill This is not a drill Bird in the water Bird in the water. It reminded me like a scene on the titanic navy soldiers running all over the place scrambling to do their jobs sum had on just their boxers Then it all came to life I was told it was my platoon&attachments, the flight crew&the chaplain whom I put on the helo. I fell into a state of shock I felt bitter my heart wouldn't stop crying those comrade is my brothers my best friends my life time soldiers for life how I miss them. I live with the guilt every second of the day. That I should've been on that flight to destiny because I did every mission with them besides that one. Later that day the Navy Seals recoverd their bodies but saved four. I assist in the recovery efforts but when it really hit me when I had to help carry their body bags on to the helo. So they could make their way on home reading their name tags.I'm tearing up now as I'm typing this my heart is sour my thoughts are racing enough said May GOD KEEP THESE SOLDIERS COMFORTABLY IN HIS ARMS AND HELP THIER FAMILIES WITH THE GRIEVING THAT THEY ENDURE FOR A LIFE TIME. THEY ARE GOOD MEN&THE BEST OF THE BEST GOD BLESS

Death of relative

I believe that marine Sgt. Dirk Witcher was my cousin and would like to know more about his career in the military sincerely John DeLaney

I was onboard the USS Guadalcanal

I was onboard the USS Guadalcanal when this tragedy happen. I was assigned as a Radioman with TACRON 21 out of Little Creek Amphibious.

I remember typing up the classified messages about this tragedy that morning. And then watching the local news feed from the televisions onboard the USS Guadalcanal reporting about the tragedy.

The navy had brought some of the reckage from the CH-46D and placed it in hanging bay until the USS Guadalcanal arrived back in North Fork Virginia ship yard.

The next year in 1986 the USS Guadalcanal, 26th Marine Amphibious Unit and TACRON 21 would be part of Operation El Dorado Canyon On April 15, 1986 military policy action against Libya.

In responce to April 5 1986, Libyan agents bombed "La Belle" nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people and injuring 229 people who were spending the evening there. West Germany and the United States obtained cable transcripts from Libyan agents in East Germany who were involved in the attack.

Timothy Bledsoe
Radioman 3rd (1984-1988)