Operations Resumed Sunday After Being Suspended Due To Bad Weather In The Search Area Operations
The Navy resumed search and recovery operations Sunday when weather conditions improved at the crash site of an MH-53E that went down Jan. 8.
Dive operations were temporarily suspended Jan. 10 when it was determined that weather conditions had made it unsafe to continue diving at the site.USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) returned to the crash site in the afternoon Jan. 12 with divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU 2) and patrol boats from Riverine Squadron 2 (RIVRON 2) to provide area security.
Sailors from MDSU 2 have expanded the search area and are using a Remus Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) for high-resolution bottom mapping of the crash site.
"Our priority right now is to bring our missing Sailor back to his family. We have a lot of dedicated, highly skilled men and women working to accomplish just that," said Rear Adm. Kevin Scott, the director of Joint and Fleet Operations.
After locating the wreckage utilizing side-scanning sonar, MDSU 2 divers conducted the first dive from about 1700 EST Thursday. They remained in the water until 2015. The divers entered the water again Friday morning. Divers were able to locate the helicopter's engine and other major components in the debris field. Personnel aboard USNS Grasp are also using unmanned underwater vehicles to aid in the search and recovery.
"Dive operations are inherently dangerous and it takes time to methodically search the designated area," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Morganthaler, commander, MDSU2. "Weather presents a lot of variables into our dive operations and, while our divers are experienced and highly trained, we want to ensure the search for the missing aviator can be conducted as safely as possible."
Five crew members were on board the MH-53E when it crashed Wednesday approximately 18 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Four of the crew members were rescued and taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for treatment. Lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn, 29, of Greensboro, NC and Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) (AWS-3) Brian Andrew Collins, 25, of Truckee, CA died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. Lieutenant Sean Christopher Snyder, 39, from Santee, CA is still missing. The other two crewmembers have been released from the hospital.
The crew members were all assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 based at Norfolk Naval Station Chambers Field. They were flying an MH-53E "Sea Dragon" on a routine mine countermeasure training exercise when the accident happened.
The cause of the crash is being investigated.
(Image provided by the U.S. Navy)