By Debbie Gregory.
Seven Marines who were part of a special operations group based in Camp Lejeune, and four National Guard soldiers were believed to be killed in an Army helicopter crash during a night-time training mission in Florida . The National Guard soldiers were from a unit based in Hammond, Louisiana.
By late this morning, human remains had washed ashore in the area near Eglin Air Force Base, base spokeswoman Jasmine Porterfield said.
The Army National Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter had taken off from an airport in nearby Destin to join other aircraft in the training exercise. The site is an ideal training area for special operations units from all branches of the military to practice over the water, on the beach and in the bay.
On Tuesday evening, March 10th, when the helicopter went missing, fog in the area reduced visibility to two miles or less, according to the National Weather Service.
This morning, the fog remained so heavy that search boats that were just offshore could be heard but not seen, blasting horns as their crews peered into the water. There were a dozen airmen, dressed in fatigues, walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the beach, scanning the sand. Civilian law enforcement and rescue crews, including searchers with dogs and dozens of boats, joined the effort.
According to the Coast Guard, debris was first spotted about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. The search area then expanded to a 17-mile stretch of the narrow sound separating Santa Rosa Island from the Florida Panhandle mainland.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families as the search and rescue continues,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Capitol Hill.
This tragic incident is a reminder to all of us, that those who serve put themselves at risk, both in training and in combat.
None of the victims have been identified, pending notification of next of kin.