Navy Cmdr. Todd Flannery, left, Cmdr. Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic, and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John K. Little, Sector Commander, as they answer questions about a crash of a Navy MH-53-E Sea Dragon helicopter into the Atlantic off Virginia Beach on Jan. 8.
(Photo: Bill Tiernan)
The Coast Guard says they've called off the search for one of five crewmen aboard a Navy helicopter that crashed in the Atlantic off Virginia on Wednesday.
The helicopter, assigned to a helicopter mine countermeasures team at Naval Station Norfolk, went down around 11 a.m.
Capt. Todd Flannery, commander of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic, said four of the crewmembers were found close to the floating wreckage. A Navy helicopter hoisted them from the water within an hour of the crash and transported them to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Flannery said he was hoping that the still missing crewmember, who has been identified as Sean Snyder, is with the bulk of the aircraft.
The Coast Guard had searched for the missing sailor by air and sea throughout the night and had crews on scene Thursday morning. The Navy also sent out two helicopters to assist with the search.
"We're not actively looking, but we have an on-the-scene presence," said Capt. John Little, Coast Guard section commander.
The sailors killed in the crash have been identified as Lt. Wesley Van Dorn, 29, of Greensboro, N.C., and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Andrew Collins, 25, of Truckee, Calif.
The Navy says Van Dorn, a Navy pilot, has been in the Navy for almost seven years, while Collins has served for 2 years.
One of the surviving sailors was released from the hospital Thursday. The other remains hospitalized in good condition and could be released as early as Friday.
Navy officials said the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter was conducting routine training operations when it went down with two pilots and three air crewman. Meteorologist Evan Stewart said the water temperature was about 40 degrees and the air temperature 30 degrees when the crash took place.
Coast Guard spokesman Dave Wydert said the 87-foot patrol boat Shearwater was about 2 miles from the helicopter when it went down. The crew didn't see the crash but heard it and began an immediate search.
"Our heartfelt prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those killed and injured in today's crash," Flannery said.
In July 2012, two crew members were killed when the same model helicopter crashed into a canyon in the Gulf nation of Oman while lifting a downed aircraft.
According to the Naval Air Systems Command website, the three-engine helicopter searches for sea mines and does onboard delivery missions. The 99-foot craft holds a crew of up to eight, including two pilots and is capable of speeds of more than 170 mph.
It was not immediately known why the chopper, which weighs up to 34 tons, went down about 20 miles from Virginia Beach. The Navy said the crash is under investigation.
The Navy said Virginia Beach Fire Department boats located the aircraft fuselage and tail section. Coast Guard and Navy ships also responded, including the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham. Navy aircraft also were involved in the search.
Contributing: Associated Press
WVEC-TV, Hampton-Norfolk, Va.