MANAMA, Bahrain — All 25 personnel aboard a Marine helicopter survived after it crashed in the Gulf of Aden Monday while attempting to land aboard the USS Mesa Verde.
The U.S. Navy says 17 Marines and eight sailors on board the CH-53E Super Stallion were rescued from the water and taken to the Mesa Verde. Some were treated aboard the amphibious transport dock ship for minor injuries.
Lt. Joe Hontz, U.S. 5th Fleet spokesman, called it “an absolute blessing” that everyone survived. “The team on the Mesa Verde and everyone else came together and saved 25 people.”
He said the Mesa Verde deployed boats to rescue the survivors from the water.
The helicopter was transporting personnel to the ship from Djibouti. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but officials said it was not the result of hostile activity.
The Mesa Verde is part of the Norfolk, Va.-based Bataan amphibious ready group, which also includes the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall. On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered a 21-day extension for the ready group and its embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. The move is meant to ensure that the Bataan ready group will conduct a face- to-face turnover with the Makin Island amphibious ready group, which is already en route to replace it in the Middle East region.
Since deploying Feb. 8, much of the Bataan ready group’s time has been spent in the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea areas, where it has responded to several flash points for potential contingency operations.