By Debbie Gregory.
On Wednesday, January 8, 2014, a Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 18-20 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, VA. Of the five onboard the helo when it took off, two members of the crew were rescued, two lost their lives, and the pilot remains unaccounted for.
On the morning of January 8th, two MH-53E helicopters took off from Norfolk to conduct routine mine-countermeasure operations. At approximately 10:45 local time, one of the helos sent out a distress signal. Shortly afterward, the helo in distress was forced to conduct an emergency water landing. The second Sea Dragon, as well as the Coast Guard patrol boat Shearwater (WPB 87349) were in the vicinity of the helo when it went down. The crew of the second helicopter deployed a life raft near the downed helo. Two crew members were able to climb into the raft.
Due to quick responses from joint Navy and Coast Guard efforts, four members of the crew were quickly pulled from the ocean alive. Unfortunately, one man died shortly after being rescued, and another at the Sentara Norfolk General hospital. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The two deceased Navy Airmen have been identified as: Lieutenant Wesley Van Dorn of Greensboro, North Carolina and Petty Officer Brian Collins of Truckee, CA. The two survivors’ names have not been released.
Lieutenant Sean Snyder, the helo’s pilot, remains missing. With water temperatures at 42 degrees, it is impossible that the pilot will be recovered alive. Navy and Coast Guard ships, boats and helos searched Wednesday, Thursday and most of Friday, before the search was suspended late Friday due to bad weather. The search resumed on Sunday, but Lt. Snyder’s body has not yet been found.
We at MilitaryConnection.com would like to send our condolences to the families, shipmates, comrades and friends of Lt. Snyder, Lt. Van Dorn and Petty Officer Collins. Their service to their country was a contribution to our freedom. We thank these heroes for their service, and mourn their loss. Fair winds and following seas, brave heroes.