The ongoing search for 12 Marines who are missing after two helicopters crashed off Hawaii entered the third day with no plans Sunday morning to call off or suspend the massive effort, the Coast Guard said.
While high surf complicated the mission for rescuers on the water, a green laser off Haleiwa Beach Park on Saturday night struck a Coast Guard plane, forcing crew members to alter search patterns.
“It’s a very, very dangerous thing,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Tara Molle said of the laser, adding that it can be life-threatening for crews flying at night.
The crew of the HC-130 plane wasn’t exposed and didn’t have to land, but they changed their search pattern to avoid being hit again.
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The Coast Guard reminded the public that targeting a laser at an aircraft is illegal and could result in fine of $11,000 per violation.
Rescuers have been searching round-the-clock since the Coast Guard was notified late Thursday of the crash by a civilian who saw the aircraft flying and then disappear and a fireball.
The Marines were alerted when the CH-53E helicopters carrying six crew members each failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay following a nighttime training mission. Hours later, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted debris 2 1/2miles off of Oahu.
The transport helicopters were part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armored vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.
The Coast Guard initially reported that the choppers had collided, but Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said Friday that he didn’t know if the accident was a collision.
“We think they collided because both of them went down,” Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman who’s an expert on sea survival, said Sunday from Florida.
It would have happened very quickly and survival would entail overcoming many factors. “You have to survive the crash, you have to survive the on-rushing of water,” he said, adding they would then have to battle dehydration and exposure to the elements.
A high surf warning for Oahu’s north and west shores was extended until noon Sunday. Waves of up to 30 feet were expected to subside to advisory levels Sunday afternoon.
“It’s difficult to spot anything in breaking waves,” said Vittone, who was a helicopter swimmer and marine accident investigator with the Coast Guard. “It almost like camouflages everything.”
The crash was off the north shore, but the search area was expanded to include waters off Oahu’s west coast on Saturday.
Expanding the search area lowers the probability of detection, Vittone said.
The Coast Guard uses what’s called the Probability of Survival Decision Aid to gauge survival time he said, explaining that they factor in air temperature, water temperature, sea conditions and humidity, along with details about the victims.
“They use age and weight and sex and what they were wearing, along what gear they have on,” Vittone said.
Rescuers will continue to search “as long as there’s probable cause that they have something to find,” Molle, with the Coast Guard in Honolulu, said. As of Sunday morning, there were no plans to call off or suspend the search, she said.
The U.S. Marines Corps released the names of the 12 missing crew members late Saturday. Though based in Hawaii, the Marines were from various states.
Some family members were holding out hope that survivors could be found, while asking for privacy as they waited for updates.
“My husband and I want everyone to know that this is not about us,” Donna McGrew, mother of Maj. Shawn Campbell of College Station, Texas, said in a statement. “This is about the families that are suffering, and about all the sacrifices that our military members and their families make on a daily basis.”
The missing crew members are:
- Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.
- Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia.
- Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis.
- Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.
- Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24, Chaska, Minnesota.
- Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania.
- Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.
- Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama.
- Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas.
- Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida.
- Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts.
- Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.
Details about 12 Marines missing in Hawaii helicopter crash
SGT. ADAM C. SCHOELLER, 25, GARDNERS, PENNSYLVANIA
Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller’s family members say they are remaining optimistic as the search continues.
A statement released through a family friend said that “there are thousands praying for a positive outcome” for the Marines and the search and rescue efforts.
“We value all of the thoughts and prayers offered up on our behalf during this very difficult time.”
Relatives said Schoeller and his wife, Samantha Wickel-Schoeller, were married on July 4. Schoeller’s Facebook page says he attended Boiling Springs High School.
CPL. THOMAS J. JARDAS, 22, FORT MYERS, FLORIDA
Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas is the brother of the reigning Miss District of Columbia.
Jardas is the younger brother of Haely Jardas, who represented the District in last year’s Miss America pageant.
The Miss D.C. Organization said in a statement that its thoughts and prayers are with Haely Jardas and her family. Miss D.C. executive director Tricia Lloyd says Haely Jardas flew home to Florida on Saturday to be with her family. The organization is asking that her privacy be respected.
MAJ. SHAWN M. CAMPBELL, 41, COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS
Maj. Shawn M. Campbell’s mother, Donna McGrew, describes the father of four as a “great dad whose kids love him and he’s wonderful husband.”
Campbell attended high school in suburban Houston and then graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in microbiology.
In a family statement, McGrew said her son accepted a commission following his graduation and became a career Marine. She told the Houston Chronicle that Campbell served three tours in Middle East, the last in Iraq. He returned to the U.S. to be a flying instructor at Pensacola, Florida, and had transferred to Hawaii about two years ago.
He and his wife, Kelli, and their children, have been living near the Marine base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
“My husband and I want everyone to know that this is not about us,” McGrew said in the statement. “This is about the families that are suffering, and about all the sacrifices that our military members and their families make on a daily basis.”
CPL. MATTHEW R. DROWN, 23, SPRING, TEXAS.
Matthew R. Drown joined the Marines shortly after graduating from a suburban Houston high school in 2011.
His family issued a statement asking for privacy to “deal with the very difficult situation,” adding that they have to remain hopeful of his rescue for his sake and others on the downed aircraft.
Drown’s former high school English teacher, Yvette Stuckey, told the Houston Chronicle she remembered Drown as a shy freshmen, but that he came out of his shell as he grew, eventually participating in debate tournaments.
His speech and debate teacher, Angie Richard, recalled him as “very happy, always smiling” and showing a confidence in public speaking “unusual among high school kids.”
Stuckey said she was “shocked but so excited” when Drown told her his plans to enlist after graduation, adding that he was “really excited to follow and serve his country.”
SGT. DILLON J. SEMOLINA, 24, OF CHASKA, MINNESOTA
The uncle of Minnesota native Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina said the 24-year-old wants to be a Registered Nurse when he leaves the Marines.
“He was waiting to hear from a school he had applied to and was hoping to hear next week,” said his uncle, Ryan Bachand.
Semolina is an impressive young man, respectful and positive, Bachand said. He had been a good football player at Delano, Minnesota, high school.
The family still holds out hope that he and others missing will be found alive, Bachand said.
But as hopes have dimmed, Bachand said he would cherish memories of spending time with Semolina when Bachand was a fishing guide in northern Minnesota. “I was able to teach him how to fish,” he said.
A GoFundMe page to raise money to send Semolina’s parents to Hawaii to be near where Semolina went missing had raised nearly $10,000 from 226 people by late Saturday.
CPL. CHRISTOPHER ORLANDO, 23, OF HINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS
Orlando’s family said in a statement released Saturday by the Massachusetts State Police that they are thankful to everyone for their love, concern and prayers. Orlando is a flight crew chief and a 2010 high school graduate from Hingham, outside Boston. His family said they are monitoring the search effort and are thankful for the hard work of search and rescue crews.
Before Orlando joined the Marines, he was a counselor at a surf camp in Hull, Massachusetts, and is a “camp legend,” the South Shore Surf Camp said in a Facebook post. “He is mentally and physically strong with the ocean experience and skills needed to survive anything Mother Nature can throw at him.”
CAPT. KEVIN ROCHE, 30, OF ST. LOUIS
The family of Capt. Kevin Roche, 30, praised rescuers for trying to find him and the other Marines aboard the helicopters.
“We believe the Marines and Coast Guard are doing everything they can to bring Kevin and his fellow Marines home safely, and we are grateful to everyone involved in the rescue,” said a family statement distributed by brother-in-law Anthony Kuenzel in St. Louis.
LANCE CPL. TY L. HART, 21, OF AUMSVILLE, OREGON
The Oregonian newspaper reports that 21-year-old Ty Hart, from Stayton, Oregon, lives on base in Hawaii with his wife.
Family friend Christina Brown described Hart as upbeat and energetic and said he enjoys nature, boating and wakeboarding.
Hart’s former high school football coach and teacher, Alan Kirby, told the newspaper that Hart was a positive kid who always had a smile on his face and called him a quick learner on the gridiron.