Authorities say a Marine helicopter dropped a fuel tank in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern North Carolina coast, spilling 100 to 200 gallons of fuel into the water.
The Star-News of Wilmington reported that Surf City Assistant Fire Chief Josh Bradley said the tank fell out of the CH53 helicopter early Thursday afternoon. Witnesses on the beach said they saw the tank hit the water and an oil slick form.
Officials believe the oil dissipated in approximately 30 minutes and should have no effect on fish and birds.
Town workers found a few small pieces of the tank, which they say was a spare fuel tank in the helicopter.
Bradley said town workers are monitoring the area to see if the tank washes ashore.
Marines say no one was injured when an auxiliary fuel tank fell off a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter Thursday afternoon near Surf City.
The Marine Corps says Topsail Beach has been closed until further notice as a precautionary measure. But a Wilmington television station tells us that the beach is not closed.
The helicopter was from the New River Air Station and dropped the tank some 1000 feet from the shore, due south of Topsail Island.
Marines say they are coordinating recovery efforts and there is no immediate word on any environmental impact.
The helicopter was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461.