Army, Coast Guard launch search for missing Black Hawk crew

Last Updated Aug 16, 2017 7:53 PM EDT

HONOLULU -- Crews searching for five soldiers missing from an Army helicopter crash off Hawaii have found parts of a fuselage and a helmet Wednesday.

Honolulu fire Capt. David Jenkins said that the items were found about 2 miles off Oahu's Kaena Point. He says the search is focused in the area.

The Fire Department has rescue boats at the scene, while the U.S. Coast Guard sent an airplane, helicopter and two boats. An Army helicopter crew also is looking.

Two UH-60 Black Hawk crews were conducting training between Kaena Point and Oahu's Dillingham Airfield late Tuesday when one aircrew lost contact with the other, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Photos showed Army soldiers unloading suspected debris from the firefighters' boat at the harbor in the nearby town of Haleiwa.

Officials closed the state park at Kaena Point while the search was underway. Kaena is a remote spot where Oahu's northern and western coasts meet to form a small peninsula. The park's sandy coastline is home to a seabird colony and endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

A Coast Guard plane, two helicopters and several boats were being used in the search across an area with light winds and 2-foot (0.6-meter) seas.

Two Black Hawk crews were conducting training between Kaena Point and Oahu's Dillingham Airfield northwest of Honolulu when communications were lost, officials said. Clouds and a few showers were in the area at the time.

Night training offshore is routine, said Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, public affairs officer for the Army's 25th Infantry Division.

The search began immediately after one aircrew lost visual and video contact with the other helicopter, Kellogg said.

The two helicopters are elements of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.

U.S. Army soldiers get ready to land a Black Hawk helicopter during an exercise in Mikyciai, Lithuania, June 17, 2017.

U.S. Army soldiers get ready to land a Black Hawk helicopter on June 17, 2017.

Reuters

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine utility helicopter manufactured for the Army by Sikorsky Aircraft starting in the 1970s.

More than 3,000 Black Hawk aircraft are in service around the world, according to Sikorsky's parent company Lockheed Martin. The U.S. Army owns 2,300 of them.

In April, one crew member was killed and two others were injured when an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed onto a golf course in Maryland during a routine training flight.

In 2015, 11 crew members were killed when an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed into the water off Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.