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DOD IDs 2 casualties after helicopter falls off ship into Red Sea

A U.S. Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean Dec. 4, 2012.

NAPLES, Italy — The Department of Defense has identified two crewmembers missing and presumed dead after a Sunday helicopter crash in the Red Sea.

Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones, 35, of Lompoc, Calif., and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathon S. Gibson, 32, of Aurora, Ore., were inside the MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter when it crashed into the central Red Sea after landing on the deck of the guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence.

The Navy suspended efforts to find the men on Monday, saying the crew’s survival was “extremely unlikely.”

A Navy official said the helicopter fell into the water after landing on the ship’s deck and disembarking several passengers, not as it attempted to land, as the service initially reported.

Both Jones and Gibson were assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Six, based out of San Diego. The DOD release said the sailors died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Navy has said no hostile activity caused the crash.

The Navy official, who was unauthorized to speak on the matter, said three passengers had exited the helicopter after it landed on the deck of the destroyer. Rotors were still spinning when the helicopter suddenly fell into the water, the official said.

Officials believe a large wave that struck the ship after the helicopter landed played a role in the crash, he said, although exactly what happened was still unclear pending the investigation. Weather and sea conditions were normal at the time of operations, according to the official.

Whether the three passengers were involved in the crash is unclear; they were listed in stable condition by a Navy press release.

The William P. Lawrence is one of three destroyers with the Nimitz carrier strike group, which deployed from San Diego in April. The group was returning from the Persian Gulf and 5th Fleet waters when it was moved to the Red Sea earlier this month as part of posturing for a possible military strike against Syria.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com
Twitter: @sjbeardsley

 

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