US Navy Declares Helicopter Crash From USS Abraham Lincoln Shifted From Search & Rescue to Recovery

by Jennifer Shea

The U.S. Navy has moved from search and rescue to recovery in its hunt for five sailors who went missing after a helicopter crashed off the San Diego coast on Tuesday.

The Navy says it is now looking to recover their bodies.

“In accordance with Navy policy, the identities of the Sailors are being withheld for 24 hours following the notification of their next of kin,” the U.S. Pacific Fleet tweeted on Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and shipmates.”

Navy Conducted Extensive Search and Rescue Efforts

However, the Navy made that shift only after 72 hours of extensive rescue efforts, which included nearly three dozen search and rescue flights to find the wreckage of the helicopter, the Associated Press reports. They used five search helicopters and constant surface vessel search, according to the Navy.

Meanwhile, they rescued one sailor from the helicopter and took the sailor to the hospital in stable condition, per ABC News.

Five other sailors suffered injuries on board the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, where the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter had been operating on the deck before it crashed. What’s more, the fact that sailors aboard the carrier were injured raises the possibility that the helicopter or parts of it hit the Lincoln. (There are typically ground crews present on the carrier nearby, and others working on deck, when helicopters take off and land on a ship.)

Those sailors were in stable conditions Saturday, Lt. Samuel R. Boyle, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told the AP. But two of them went to a San Diego hospital for treatment. Three received treatment on site for minor injuries.

So now the cause of the helicopter crash is under investigation. It happened roughly 60 nautical miles off San Diego. And it occurred amid what the Navy said were routine flight operations.

The helicopter in question is part of the Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8. That model usually carries a crew of four. Moreover, it typically deploys in combat support, humanitarian disaster relief and search and rescue missions.

The helicopter crash occurred barely 12 days after Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt assumed command of the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln is homeported in San Diego.