NAVARRE, Florida (AP) — Divers found the Black Hawk helicopter that crashed amid dense fog during a Florida training mission, killing 11 Marines and soldiers, but continuing bad weather Thursday prevented the recovery of the flight recorder from the wreckage.
The military’s response officially changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery after divers inspected the aircraft’s shattered core, Col. Monte Cannon, vice-commander of the 96th Test Wing, said at Eglin Air Force Base.
“It was certainly a high-impact crash,” said Eglin Fire Chief Mark Giuliano, and “very, very, very dense fog” still complicates recovery efforts.
There’s almost no visibility at the crash site, forcing search crews to move slowly in rough surf to avoid running into each other or wreckage, he said.
The military has not described the cause of the crash, which happened Tuesday night in weather conditions so bad that another helicopter turned back.
The same fog and crashing Gulf waves surrounded a pier where a large gathering held vigil Wednesday night, creating a somber backdrop to the songs, tears and prayers of people with strong ties to the military and the sprawling Eglin Air Force Base.
Dozens of airmen walked the shores of Santa Rosa Sound on Thursday, and the Coast Guard searched for debris in the water, said Mike Spaits, a base spokesman. Pieces of clothing and bits of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter have washed ashore, and homeowners have contacted the military to pick it up, he said.
The helicopter that crashed had a veteran crew from Louisiana, that served multiple tours in Iraq and helped humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill.
Associated Press contributors include Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Kevin McGill and Stacey Plaisance in Hammond, Louisiana; and Emery P. Dalesio at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.