5 sailors presumed dead in Navy helicopter crash, search suspended

The MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crashed on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln Tuesday and fell into the sea

Five sailors who went missing after their helicopter crashed on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and fell into the sea are presumed dead, the Navy said Saturday.

The announcement marks an end to the three-day search for the crew and a transition to a search and recovery operation. The Navy has not yet found the wreckage, but it is known where the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter went into the water — about 60 nautical miles off the San Diego coast.

One of the helicopter’s crew was rescued from the water following Tuesday’s crash and is in stable condition ashore. Five Abraham Lincoln sailors were injured in the crash; two were also taken ashore for treatment.

Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, offered condolences to the families affected on Saturday.

“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,” Gilday said in a statement. “We stand alongside their families, loved ones, and shipmates who grieve.”

The Seahawk, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, was conducting routine flight operations from the ship when it crashed about 4:30 p.m. The ship has been conducting exercises off the San Diego coast in preparation for a deployment next year, the Navy has said.

Few details of the crash have been released. The incident is under investigation.

Both the helicopter squad and Abraham Lincoln are based at Naval Air Station North Island.

The 72-hour search effort by the Navy and Coast Guard included more than 170 hours of flight time, with five search helicopters and constant surface vessel search, the Navy said.

The names of the deceased are expected to be released this weekend.

The five deaths add to a grim week in San Diego’s military community. On Aug. 26, nine Marines and one sailor from Camp Pendleton were among the 13 troops killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during evacuation operations.