Camp Lejeune, NC Marine Helicopter Crash, Oct 1985
MARINE 'COPTER DOWN IN SEA.
DIVRS NEARBY -- TOO LATE TO SAVE 15 IN ATLANTIC.
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,"
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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