Navy Doing Deep Sea-Search for Sailors' Remains, Helicopter

Sailors deploy the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle.
Sailors from Undersea Rescue Command deploy the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator. (Curtis Khol/U.S. Navy)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Navy is conducting a deep-sea search for the remains of five sailors and the wreckage of a Navy helicopter that hit the deck of an aircraft carrier off the San Diego coast on Aug. 31 and plunged into the Pacific ocean.

The Navy launched the search Wednesday, bring in sailors from its command that is specialized in undersea searches and salvage. They will be using the ship Dominator, which uses a sonar scanner. The ship is typically used for submarine recovery missions.

The helicopter is believed to be between 4,000 (1,200 meters) and 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) below the ocean's surface, which delayed recovery efforts until the Navy could bring in specialized equipment capable of searching deep waters so far from shore.

The Dominator was used in 2020 to recover the remains of seven Marines and one sailor after their amphibious assault vehicle sunk off San Clemente Island off San Diego.

The Navy Sea Hawk had been trying to touch down aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when “side-to-side vibrations” caused caused the rotor of the aircraft to collide with the carrier's flight deck, causing the helicopter to crash and fall into the sea, according to the Navy Safety Center.

One crew member was rescued immediately after the crash, according to the San Diego-based U.S. 3rd Fleet.

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