Search Continues For
One Coast Guard Helicopter Crash Crewmember
By Daniel Baxter
March 2, 2012 - Tuesday evening, a U.S Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter, from Aviation Training Center (ATC) Mobile, Alabama crashed in Mobile Bay (CG-6535).
The MH-65C was flown by a four-person crew and was
conducting training operations. A full Coast Guard and
interagency search and rescue effort was launched and
the aircraft was quickly located near Point Clear.
One deceased crewmember was recovered, and extensive
efforts continue to locate the other three crewmembers.
Deceased is Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge. Missing
are Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight, Lt. j.g.
Thomas Cameron and Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor.
The search has been ongoing since Tuesday when
communications with the crew of the MH-65C were lost
during a training flight over Mobile Bay. Rescue crews
who arrived on scene immediately recovered a crewmember
that was found unresponsive and later declared deceased.
By Wednesday, a salvage ship was dispatched and divers began searched the muddy bottom of Alabama's Mobile Bay, but were unable to gain access to its fuselage in 13 feet of water.
Overnight, a crew aboard the Ben R. Johnson, a 57-foot salvage vessel, recovered the helicopter fuselage from the bottom of Mobile Bay. The fuselage did not contain the bodies of the three missing crewmembers.
By Thursday, Coast Guard aircraft, boats and cutters along with state and local resources and Good Samaritan vessels were participating in the search effort. The Coast Guard recovered two crewmembers, the remains of Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, of Snow Hill, N.C., and Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron, of Portland, Ore., were recovered by response personnel. Missing is Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight of Thomasville, Ala. The Coast Guard suspended the active search and rescue operations Thursday night and are now conducting salvage and recovery operations.
"We saturated 95 percent of Mobile Bay for
nearly two days with both aircraft and boats to thoroughly cover
the search area. The decision to suspend the active search was
terribly difficult," said Capt. Donald J. Rose, commander of
Coast Guard Sector Mobile. "Now, we must shift our focus to
continuing salvage and recovery operations. As we continue to
recover wreckage, we will look for the missing crewman."
Coast Guard crews
searched for 36 hours, conducting approximately 30 search patterns with
track-line-search legs that covered 1,198 nautical miles within a search
area of more than 200 square-nautical miles in an effort to locate the
Coast Guardsmen. Crews and aircraft from multiple Coast Guard units, as
well as several state and local first responder agencies, such as
Alabama Marine Resources, Mobile Sheriff's Department, Bon Secour Fire
Department and Daphne Search and Rescue participated in the search
The tail section
of the helicopter and other components were recovered Thursday by the
crew aboard the Ben R. Johnson, a 57-foot salvage vessel. Wednesday
night, the Ben R. Johnson recovered the helicopter fuselage from the
bottom of Mobile Bay.
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