Flight crew killed in Black Hawk training crash identified

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The Louisiana National Guard on Monday identified the pilots and crew of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in the Santa Rosa Sound along Florida's Panhandle in a nighttime training exercise in dense fog last week with seven elite Marines aboard.

All eleven on the Black Hawk were killed when the helicopter crashed into about 25 feet of water in the channel of the sound.

Three members of the flight crew were from Louisiana and one was from Virginia.

Piloting the helicopter were Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr. of Delhi, 37, and Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother of Alexandria, 44. Both were decorated veteran pilots.

Also killed were Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron, 40, of Thibodaux and Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, Fairfax, Virginia.

Military burials with full honors were being planned for the dead, said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

Across Louisiana flags are flying at half-staff until sunset March 20 to honor the guard members and seven Marines who died in the crash March 10.

The soldiers from Hammond each did two tours in Iraq and participated in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the 2010 BP oil spill off Louisiana.

Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander of Marine Corps special operations forces, has said they were practicing rappelling down ropes into the water and heading for land, but had decided to abort the mission as too risky.

The crash is being investigated by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, based in Fort Rucker, Alabama.



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The Louisiana National Guard is expected to release the names of four members killed last week when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed off Florida's Panhandle during nighttime training.

The head of the Louisiana National Guard, Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, has scheduled a news conference late Monday morning at the Jackson Barracks Museum in New Orleans.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered flags at the state Capitol and all other state buildings and institutions to fly at half-staff until sunset March 20 to honor the guard members and seven Marines who died in the crash March 10.

The soldiers from Hammond each did two tours in Iraq and participated in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the 2010 BP oil spill off Louisiana.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


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The largest sections of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed during a nighttime training mission have been pulled from the waters off Florida's Panhandle as salvage operations continue to recover the remains of all seven Marines and four soldiers who were killed.

Eglin Air Force Base spokesman Andy Bourland says recovery operations were expected to finish late Saturday.

The debris pulled from the Santa Rosa Sound off Navarre will be moved to the Air Force's Hurlburt Field to be examined by investigators.

Bourland says recovery operations will continue "as needed to ensure we collect as many human remains as possible."

The commander of Marine Corps special operations forces has said those aboard the aircraft had tried to abort their mission early Tuesday when they decided it was too risky.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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The Marine Corps has released the names of seven members of MARSOC who died in Tuesday night's Black Hawk crash in Florida.

Major General Joseph Osterman identified the Marines as Captain Stanford Shaw of Basking Ridge, NJ, Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders of Williamsburg, Virginia, Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol of Warren, Michigan, Staff Sgt. Trevor Blaylock of Lake Orion, Michigan, Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn of Queens, New York, Staff Sgt. Kerry Kemp of Port Washington, Wisconsin, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif of Holland, Michigan.

All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of MARSOC. The Marine Corps says the bodies will be sent to Dover Air Force Base before being released to their families for burial.

Four Louisiana National Guard soldiers also died in the crash. Their names have yet been released.

Meanwhile, salvage operations began Friday afternoon in the Santa Rosa Sound for the wreckage of the UH-60.

The work to haul the shattered helicopter core from about 25 feet of water could take up to eight hours.

This afternoon what appeared to be the main blades of the helicopter were lifted onto a barge.

A Coast Guard dive team was helping with the operation.


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The Marine Corps is expected to make their first public statement on Tuesday's tragedy in Florida that claimed the lives of seven Camp Lejeune Marines.

Major General Joseph Osterman has scheduled a 1:00 p.m. news conference at Stone Bay.

Osterman is commander of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. The seven Marines involved in the crash near Eglin Air Force Base were all members of MARSOC.

Their bodies were recovered Thursday. The Black Hawk crash, which happened during a training exercise, also claimed the lives of four members of the Louisiana National Guard.

WITN-TV will carry the news conference live.


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Dense fog continued to interfere with the recovery of remains Friday morning, from a military helicopter crash during a training exercise at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.

The Louisiana National Guard said the remains of all seven Camp Lejeune Marines were recovered, while the Army said it recovered the bodies of two of the four soldiers from the Louisiana Army National Guard helicopter.

When recovery resumes, crews will search for the remaining two soldiers and the helicopter's flight data recorder.


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The Louisiana National Guard says the remains of all seven Camp Lejeune Marines have been recovered.

The seven MARSOC Marines and four National Guard members were on a Black Hawk helicopter that went down Tuesday night off the coast of Florida.

The National Guard says the remains of two soldiers have also been recovered.

The medical examiner has identified nine of the bodies and their families have been identified.

The Marines and soldiers were participating in a routine training mission when the accident happened.

Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement after learning that the United States Coast Guard had moved from a search and rescue mission to one of recovery.

“This tragedy is a somber reminder of the daily risks and dangers the men and women of our military assume in the defense of our freedom,” Governor McCrory said. “Ann and I will be praying for the families of the fallen and the men and women of Camp Lejeune and the Louisiana National Guard.”


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The Air Force now says it has found the wreckage of the downed Black Hawk helicopter, and they are not hopeful for any survivors.

Col . Monte Cannon, senior officer for the search and rescue effort, says they are now transitioning to a recovery mission.

Seven Camp Lejeune Marines and four Louisiana National Guard members were on the aircraft at the time of the crash.

When asked if all of the bodies have been recovered, the Air Force says that effort is continuing.

The Black Hawk was found in the middle of the bay in about 25 feet of water, according to Air Force officials.

Heavy fog, rain and rough surf was complicating efforts to recover the remains of those killed. The military has provided few details about the crash, which happened Tuesday night in fog so thick that another helicopter turned back.

The National Guard says the bodies of two soldiers have been recovered from the wreckage, while the bodies of two others are believed to be still inside the helicopter.


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Fog and mist are hampering the search for seven Marines and four soldiers presumed to have died when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed over water in Florida.

The helicopter crashed Tuesday night in the Santa Rosa Sound along the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise.

Hundreds of people attended a solemn candlelit vigil Wednesday night on a pier jutting into the Gulf of Mexico.

The emotional ceremony capped a difficult day for communities with strong ties to the military. There are several significant military bases in the area.

Military officials haven't said what caused the crash, but the weather was bad enough for another helicopter on the training run to return to land.

The Marines on board were based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The soldiers were from Hammond, Louisiana.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Weather permitting, the search for seven Marines and four soldiers presumed to have died when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed will begin again.

The search for remains has been hampered by fog. The Black Hawk crashed Tuesday night in the Santa Rosa Sound along the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise.

Hundreds of people attended a solemn candlelit vigil Wednesday night on a pier jutting into the Gulf of Mexico.

The emotional ceremony capped a difficult day for communities with strong ties to the military. There are several significant military bases in the area.

Military officials haven't said what caused the crash, but the weather was bad enough for another helicopter on the training run to return to land.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. )


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Human remains washed ashore in heavy fog Wednesday after eleven service members were believed to be dead when an Army helicopter crashed.

President Barack Obama says he's confident there will be a detailed and thorough investigation into the crash off the coast of Florida.

Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who heads the Marine Corps special forces, and Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis of the Louisiana National Guard. Seven Marines and four soldiers are believed to have been killed in the Black Hawk crash during a night-time training mission.

The White House says Obama expressed his condolences to the families and fellow service members of those killed. White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama also conveyed his deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by U.S. troops.

Fog in the area reduced visibility to two miles or less when the copter was last seen Tuesday night.

A military spokesman says the service members were using boats and choppers to practice reaching and leaving a target site.

Capt. Barry Morris is a spokesman for the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune. He says the Marines involved with the exercise had been in the Florida Panhandle since Sunday and were scheduled to stay through this Sunday. He says they were doing what the military calls insertion and extraction missions.


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Seven Marines and four soldiers aboard an Army helicopter that crashed over waters off Florida during a routine night training mission were presumed dead Wednesday, and crews found human remains despite heavy fog hampering search efforts, military officials said.

A Pentagon official said all 11 service members were presumed dead and that the Coast Guard found debris in the water. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

Human remains had washed ashore, but crews still considered it a search-and-rescue mission, said Sara Vidoni, a military spokeswoman for Eglin Air Force Base, outside Pensacola.

The helicopter — a UH-60 Black Hawk from the Army National Guard — was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews found debris around 2 a.m., said Andy Bourland, a spokesman for Eglin Air Force Base, outside Pensacola.

Much of the area was enveloped in fog from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning, said Katie Moore with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. Much of that time, the visibility was at two miles or less, she said.

The fog created low visibility even as the sun came up, and the area was under a fog advisory.

Local law enforcement agencies vehicles gathered Wednesday at the crash scene, near a remote swath of beach between Pensacola and Destin. The beach is owned by the military, and as part of the Eglin base, it is used for test missions.

From the beach, search boats could be heard blasting horns as they combed the water but could not be seen through the fog. The Coast Guard had secured the waterways, Vidoni said.

Base officials said the Marines were part of a Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based special operations group. The soldiers were from a Hammond, Louisiana-based National Guard unit. Names of those involved were not immediately released, pending notification of next of kin, Bourland said.

Bourland said the Army helicopter took off from a nearby airport in Destin and joined other aircraft in the training exercise.

The training area includes 20 miles of pristine beachfront that has been under the control of the military since before World War II. Military police keep a close watch on the area and have been known to run off private vendors who rent jet skis or paddle boards without permission.

Test range manager Glenn Barndollar told The AP in August that the beach provides an ideal training area for special operations units from all branches of the military to practice over the water, on the beach and in the bay.

The military sometimes drops trainees over the water using boats or helicopters and the trainees must make their way onshore.


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A military official says the seven Marines and four soldiers aboard an Army helicopter that crashed over waters off Florida during a training mission are presumed dead.

The Pentagon official said Wednesday that the 11 service members are presumed dead and that the Coast Guard found debris in the water. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

Andy Bourland, a spokesman for Eglin Air Force Base outside Pensacola, says the UH-60 Black Hawk from the Army National Guard was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews found debris around 2 a.m.

The area was under a fog advisory Wednesday. The crash scene is near a remote swath of beach between Pensacola and Destin. It's owned by the military and used for test missions.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines, soldiers and family members of those involved in this mishap. We are working closely with all parties involved to locate our Marines and the Army aircrew as soon as possible." Major Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command.

Marines at Camp Lejeune say "search and rescue" efforts continue at the site of the accident. Names of the aircrew and the Marines on board are being withheld while that search mission is underway.


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Search teams have been combing Florida beaches between Destin and Pensacola since about 8:30 Tuesday night when a Blackhawk helicopter with Camp Lejeune Marines on board crashed.

WITN spoke with Eglin Air Force Base officials, where the helicopter was stationed.

Public Affairs specialist Sara Vidoni said there were two helicopters doing routine, night time training when one helicopter crashed.

The cause of the crash has ye to be determined, though we know there was dense fog in the area at the time. No word if that fog was a factor in the crash.

We have been able to confirm these were MARSOC Marines on board the Blackhawk that crashed, but MARSOC spokesmen Capt. Barry Morris said they are not releasing the names of those on board yet.

There was some debris found around 2:30 Wednesday morning, but none of the seven missing marines or four Louisiana-based missing soldiers have been found.

Stay with WITN as we continue to learn more


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Seven Marines and four soldiers are missing early Wednesday after an Army helicopter crashed during a night training exercise at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.

Base officials say the Marines are part of a Camp Lejeune-based special operations group and the soldiers are from a Hammond, Louisiana-based National Guard unit.

Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland says the helicopter was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and search and rescue crews found debris from the crash around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

The helicopter went down during a routine training mission on a remote swath of beach between Pensacola and Destin. The beach is owned by the military and is used for test missions.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)