Rescuers on Friday found the wreckage of a missing U.S. Marine helicopter that had been assisting in Nepal’s earthquake relief, along with at least three charred bodies, the defense secretary said. Six Marine and two Nepalese soldiers had been aboard.
The Nepalese defense secretary, Ishwori Paudyal, said it was unlikely that anyone had survived.
One of those Marines on board the helicopter was Sgt Mark Johnson IV, 29, from Goose Creek, South Carolina. Johnson had been featured in a recent Pentagon video talking about the importance of the relief effort in Nepal.
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The Pentagon has not officially identified those killed, but the Charleston Post and Courier identified Johnson as a casualty. Friends of the family started adding words of hope to his wife’s and mother’s FaceBook pages on Tuesday.
Johnson’s father told the Post and Courier that his son “had a phenomenon work ethic” and would be remembered as a good Marine.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday morning that U.S. military officials had identified the wreckage of the missing helicopter, found around eight miles north of the village of Charikot. Four emergency paramedics, and one combat rescue officer were on the ground assessing the scene, said the spokesman, Col. Steve Warren.
The UH-1 Huey helicopter went missing Tuesday afternoon after flying to a remote part of Nepal where mountainous terrain can make landing difficult. It disappeared near Charikot, which was hit hard by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that same day. That earthquake was the worst aftershock since the magnitude 7.8 quake that hit Nepal last month.
On Thursday, Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said the Huey had been delivering supplies in the area around Charikot and that the crew members probably also had been engaging in “their own reconnaissance.” They were near the end of their mission when the helicopter went missing, he said.
“The terrain out there is the roughest in the world, and I’ve flown in Afghanistan,” Kennedy said Thursday, adding that the area the crew had been searching included “100 active landslides.”
Nepalese military officials said the helicopter had been found in Kalinchowk, near the epicenter of the Tuesday quake.
On Thursday, a Nepalese army commander, Brig. Gen. Sudheer Shrestha, said that villagers in Kalinchowk had reported hearing a crash and seeing smoke Tuesday but that rescuers at the time had not found evidence of a crash.
Rachael Myers Lowe contributed to this report