Search continues for nine missing after midair collision off California

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Three days after a US Navy helicopter collided with a US Coast Guard airplane off the coast of California, a search and rescue mission is ongoing for the nine crew onboard the two aircraft.

The two on board the AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter and seven on the C-130 Hercules transport plane were trained in survival and described as being in good physical condition, meaning rescuers maintain hope of finding them alive. They all had heat-retaining drysuits but it was unknown if they were wearing them at the time.

The accident occurred at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday in an area of military airspace that is sometimes closed to the public, although its status at the time of the accident was not known. The helicopter had been in formation with two transports and another SuperCobra to practise night flying, while the Coast Guard plane was conducting search and rescue for 50-year-old boater David Jines. The search for Jines ends today whether he is found or not.

Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo said today that the missing air crews are "trained in survival tactics, they're trained also with the will to live. We know they have the ability to survive longer than you might expect." However, he also expressed concern that there may not be any survivors. "... hope gets less every day. My hope today is not what it was yesterday."

After searching 644 square miles of ocean with nine aircraft debris has been located from both the aircraft, but no trace has been found of those on board. Operations are currently focusing near the military's San Clemente Island, where an area of about 50 miles of floating wreckage is located.