Mar 11, 2015 5:14 PM

Latest on military helicopter crash: More fog hampers search

The Associated Press

5:10 P.M

A spokesman at a Florida Air Force base near where a helicopter crashed says crews are still in search-and-rescue mode even though a Pentagon official has said the 11 military members aboard are presumed dead.

Eglin Air Force Base spokesman Mike Spaits says the search will continue throughout the night. "There is always room for optimism," he said. "The fog has been hampering our search efforts, and more fog is continuing to roll in."

Human remains and small pieces of wreckage from the helicopter have washed ashore.

4:40 P.M.

The head of the Louisiana National Guard says two helicopters were on a training mission off the coast of Florida when one turned back because of bad weather and the other crashed.

"One of them started to take off and then realized there was a weather condition and turned around and came back," said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

There was dense fog in the area at the time.

Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana Guard said later it was unclear exactly when the decision to turn back was made, or whether that was communicated to the crew in the helicopter that crashed.

4:15 P.M

The head of the Louisiana National Guard says the crew of a helicopter that crashed off the coast of Florida had a lot of experience, serving in Iraq and helping humanitarian missions after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, said Wednesday the crew also helped after hurricanes Rita and Isaac. The helicopter had four Guardsmen from Louisiana on board along with seven Marines from North Carolina. They are presumed dead.

Like the Army's Green Berets and the Navy's SEALs, these Marines were highly skilled unconventional warriors, trained to endure grueling conditions and sensitive assignments on land and at sea, from seizing ships to special reconnaissance missions and direct action inside hostile territory.

The helicopter was part of a nighttime training mission Tuesday at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There was dense fog in the area at the time of the crash but officials have not said what caused the helicopter to go down.

2:30 P.M.

Crews searching for a military helicopter that crashed just off the Florida coast have taken to the air now that the fog is beginning to lift.

A helicopter was flying low over the Santa Rosa Sound on Wednesday afternoon, looking for any sign of the helicopter that crashed or any of the 11 Marines and soldiers that were aboard when it went down.

Human remains and pieces of wreckage have washed ashore. The military members are presumed dead.

The dense fog has hampered the search. It was also foggy when the helicopter disappeared Tuesday night, but it's not clear if the weather had anything to do with the crash.

2 P.M.

A military spokesman says the 11 Marines and soldiers involved in a helicopter crash in Florida were using boats and choppers to practice reaching and leaving a target site.

Capt. Barry Morris is a spokesman for the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He says the troops involved with the exercise had been in the Florida Panhandle since Sunday and were scheduled to stay through this Sunday. He says they were doing what the military calls insertion and extraction missions.

Human remains washed ashore in heavy fog Wednesday after seven Marines and four soldiers were believed to be killed in the Army helicopter crash.

Human remains washed ashore in heavy fog Wednesday after seven Marines and four soldiers were believed to be killed in the Army helicopter crash during a night-time training mission in Florida.


12:45 P.M

President Barack Obama says he's confident there will be a detailed and thorough investigation into an Army helicopter crash off the coast of Florida.

Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who heads the Marine Corps special forces, and Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis of the Louisiana National Guard. Seven Marines and four soldiers are believed to have been killed in the Black Hawk crash during a night-time training mission.

The White House says Obama expressed his condolences to the families of those killed.

12:15 P.M

The Coast Guard says the search area for an Army helicopter that crashed with 11 Marines and soldiers on board is about 50 square miles.

The Coast Guard says debris from the crash was first spotted about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Search crews on the beach and in the Santa Rosa Sound are still trying to navigate dense fog and light rain. Some human remains have washed ashore. A Pentagon official says the 11 service members are presumed dead.

Navarre Beach is known for its undeveloped beauty and relaxed feel. There is one main beach bar and restaurant Juana's Pagoda. There are dozens of boats from police agencies, the Coast Guard and other search and rescue agencies taking off from the boat ramp behind Juana's Pagoda on Santa Rosa Island.

11:15 A.M.

A woman who lives and works at a campground near where a military helicopter crashed with 11 Marines and soldiers aboard says she heard something strange about the time the chopper was reported missing.

Kim Urr was sitting outside with a friend around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Navarre Beach campground. Urr says they are used to hearing helicopters and ordnance blasts from the military base nearby, but this sound was different.

"It sounded like something metal either being hit or falling over, that's what it sounded like. And there were two booms afterward, similar to what you hear with ordnance booms, but more muffled," Urr said.

She says they knew immediately that something was not right. They listened for sirens, but there were none. On Wednesday morning, they heard a lot of sirens.


10:45 A.M

About a dozen airmen wearing fatigues walked shoulder to shoulder down a foggy beach, looking at the sand for any sign of 11 missing Marines and soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that was reported missing Tuesday night.

The airmen searching the beach appeared to be holding portable GPS units. Searchers with dogs were also on the beach, along with law enforcement and rescue crews from a number of agencies in the area. The fog was still heavy.


10:30 A.M.

Sara Vidoni, a spokeswoman for Eglin Air Force Base, says military officials and local law enforcement are focusing their search for 11 missing Marines and soldiers on the Santa Rosa Sound, a narrow waterway separating Santa Rosa Island from Florida's mainland.

A Pentagon official said the 11 service members are presumed dead and that the Coast Guard found debris in the water. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

Heavy fog has been hampering search efforts. From the beach, search boats can be heard blasting horns as they combed the water, but they could not be seen through the fog.


9:30 A.M

Crews have found human remains connected to the Army helicopter crash. Seven Marines and four soldiers were aboard when it crashed over waters off Florida during a training mission.

Sara Vidoni is a spokeswoman for Eglin Air Force Base. She said Wednesday that human remains have washed ashore, but crews are still considering it a search-and-rescue mission.

Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland says the helicopter a UH-60 Black Hawk from the Army National Guard was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews found debris around 2 a.m. Wednesday.


Associated Press writers Melissa Nelson-Gabriel at the Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Lolita Baldor in Washington; Jason Dearen in Gainesville; Kevin McGill in Hammond, Louisiana; and Emery P. Dalesio in Jacksonville, North Carolina contributed to this report.


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