PACOM: Missing Marine helicopter in Nepal not spotted

By Andrew Tilghman , Staff writer

More than 24 hours after a Marine helicopter disappeared in flight over Nepal, a search and rescue effort has found no sign of the missing aircraft and its crew of six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

“The search continues,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday morning.

The latest official update dashed hopes raised by an earlier report Wednesday morning from the Deutsche Presse Agentur news agency, which suggested that officials had determined the helicopter’s location.

“There are a lot of reports floating around, none are attributed to anyone and most have been investigated by DoD and determined to be fake,” Army Maj. David Eastburn, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, said in an email to Military Times on Wednesday.

The search for the missing helicopter continued on Wednesday morning with two UH-1Y Huey helicopters leaving Kathmandu with two Air Force pararescuemen and several Marines onboard. One of the Hueys was fitted with a hoist in case the helicopter cannot find a landing site.

“Once the pair of Hueys completed their initial search, they returned to Kathmandu where two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft took off and continued the efforts,” Eastburn said. “This pattern will continue all day.”

The U.S. aircraft halted the aerial search again after sundown in Nepal Wednesday. In total, the aircraft flew nine sorties over the location where the missing helicopter was last seen, Warren said.

The Huey helicopter was carrying six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers when it disappeared Tuesday during a mission in a remote mountainous region in Nepal, a defense official said.

The utility helicopter from Marine Light Attack Helicopter squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton, California, was last seen after another helicopter in the area “picked up some [radio] chatter about a fuel problem,” Warren said Tuesday shortly after the aircraft was reported missing.

“Right now we are hopeful that there was no crash. There has been no [emergency] beacon, no other signs — no flames, no smoke, no hole in the ground — to indicate that there was a crash,” Warren said Tuesday.

“That said, of course, it’s very rugged and difficult terrain,” an official said.

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