Sept. 17 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy began its deep-sea search this week for the remains of an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter and the remains of five sailors who died after the aircraft crashed into waters off the San Diego coast on Aug. 31.
Estimates from the Navy’s San Diego-based 3rd Fleet put the utility helicopter at 4,000 to 6,000 feet deep on the sea floor, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Recovery operations were delayed because the Navy had to bring in the necessary equipment from around the country to search at that depth.
“The depth and distance from shore make this a complex operation,” Lt. Sam Boyle, a 3rd Fleet spokesperson, told the paper.
Naval Sea Systems Command Supervisor of Salvage and Diving have arrived this week to the area the where the helicopter’s wreckage is thought to be, the Navy Times Reports.
The salvage unit can search ocean depths up to 7,000 feet and has previously recovered a down helicopter as deep as over 19,000 feet.
The MH-60S Sea Hawk chopper crashed while performing exercises with the USS Abraham Lincoln about 60 nautical miles off the coast of San Diego.
The Navy said earlier this month that the aircraft experienced side-to-side vibrations while landing before the main rotor spun into the flight deck. The helicopter then turned over and plunged into the sea.
Only one of six sailors aboard survived the crash. They were assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8.
The Dominator, a contracted merchant vessel, left Naval Air Station North Island on Wednesday to begin recovery operations. The ship brought personnel from the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, part of the service’s Sea Surface Command.
The Navy has an approximate idea of where the helicopter went into the water but has not located wreckage, Boyle told the Union-Tribune.