Sept. 4 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy on Saturday declared five sailors who went missing after a military helicopter crashed off the San Diego coast this week to have died in the accident.
The five sailors, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, were conducting routine flight operations from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when their MH-60S helicopter crashed into the sea Tuesday approximately 60 nautical miles off the coast of San Diego.
A statement issued by the Navy’s 3rd Fleet said investigators have now concluded the sailors all died in the mishap. Their names will be withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin out of respect for their families and in accordance with Navy policy.
The statement said fleet commanders have now shifted from search and rescue efforts to recovery operations after searching for the sailors for more than 72 hours.
The effort included 34 search and rescue flights over 170 hours of flight time. The Coast Guard District 11, Abraham Lincoln, USS Cincinnati, U.S. Pacific Fleet Helicopter Sea Combat Wing helicopter squadrons and Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing were each involved in the search.
An investigation is still ongoing, military officials said.
The helicopter had six people aboard during the crash — one of the sailors was rescued.
The accident left five additional sailors aboard the Abraham Lincoln injured. Three had minimal injuries and remained aboard the ship while two others were transported ashore for treatment, the Navy said.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of five Sailors and those injured following the MH-60S helicopter tragedy off the coast of Southern California,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday said in a statement to KNSD-TV in San Diego. “We stand alongside their families, loved ones, and shipmates who grieve.”