Specialized Navy ship searching for crashed helicopter with 5 sailors aboard

(Sept. 15 2021) The offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator departs Naval Air Station North Island, Sept. 15. Dominator deployed in support of recovery operations for the remains of the crew and the MH-60S helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 8) that crashed into the sea, Aug. 31. (U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Josue Escobosa)

Erika I. Ritchie

The Orange County Register

A ship typically used for submarine recovery is now searching for a Navy helicopter that fell overboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on Aug. 31, with two pilots, two corpsmen and a naval air crewman still on board.

The HOS Dominator arrived at the location the helicopter was last seen about 60 miles southeast of San Diego late Wednesday, Sept. 15, and immediately began recovery efforts, including using a sonar scanner known as SWISS and a towed pinger locator, Navy Lt. Samuel Boyle said.

The MH-60 Sierra helicopter wreckage and the remains of the five sailors are estimated to be at an ocean depth of between 4,000 feet and 6,000 feet.

In March, the Navy recovered a downed helicopter from a depth of 19,075 feet off Okinawa, Japan. The twin-engine Sikorsky Seahawk crashed into the Pacific Ocean last year while operating from the USS Blue Ridge. The aircrew were able to escape before it sank.

Efforts to recover the helicopter overboard the USS Abraham Lincoln will continue until the wreckage is found, Boyle said. Then a second ship operating with a large crane will assist with the recovery.

The helicopter became unbalanced and went overboard the ship at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 31. One crewman was recovered from the water about 10:30 that night, and five other sailors working on the ship’s deck were injured. All six are in stable condition, Boyle said.

An investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

Navy and Coast Guard ships and planes searched the area following the helicopter’s sinking for some 72 hours before the search and rescue turned to a recovery effort. The five sailors were presumed dead and identified. All five belonged to the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8 based on North Island, San Diego.

Those aboard the helicopter were Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29, a pilot from Oakhurst; Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28, a pilot from Annandale, Va; Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, from Salem, Va; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Md.; and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey J. Tucker, 21, from St. Louis, Mo.

The Abraham Lincoln is now back at the port in San Diego. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was preparing for deployment next year.


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