Navy completes salvage of downed helicopter

By Kate Wiltrout The Virginian-Pilot ©


The Navy has finished recovering the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed off Virginia Beach two weeks ago.

Three sailors assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 died when the MH-53 Sea Dragon went down in the Atlantic about 18 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach on Jan. 8.

Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, working aboard the salvage ship Grasp, finished retrieving the helicopter Sunday, according to a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command.

The Grasp returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on Monday, and the wreckage has been taken to a hangar at Norfolk Naval Station.

An aviation mishap board – comprising three aviators, a maintenance officer and a medical officer – has been charged with determining the cause of the crash.

The Navy has not decided whether to salvage the wreckage of an F/A-18 Super Hornet that crashed a week later.

Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces Atlantic, said that jet’s pilot – who ejected moments beforehand and was plucked from the water about 45 miles offshore – remains in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Rear Adm. Michael Shoemaker told reporters last week that the Super Hornet’s “black box recorder” was recovered. Its contents will be analyzed before officials decide whether to retrieve the wreckage of the jet, which was based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.

Kate Wiltrout, 757-446-2629,


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