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Marines discuss search efforts Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Haleiwa, Hawaii, after 12 Marines went missing following a helicopter crash off the North Shore of Oahu. The missing Marines are now presumed dead, and salvage operations are underway.

Marines discuss search efforts Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Haleiwa, Hawaii, after 12 Marines went missing following a helicopter crash off the North Shore of Oahu. The missing Marines are now presumed dead, and salvage operations are underway. (Levi Rea/U.S. Coast Guard)

Marines discuss search efforts Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Haleiwa, Hawaii, after 12 Marines went missing following a helicopter crash off the North Shore of Oahu. The missing Marines are now presumed dead, and salvage operations are underway.

Marines discuss search efforts Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Haleiwa, Hawaii, after 12 Marines went missing following a helicopter crash off the North Shore of Oahu. The missing Marines are now presumed dead, and salvage operations are underway. (Levi Rea/U.S. Coast Guard)

An intense five-day search ended Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, without finding a trace of 12 Marines who went missing after two helicopters crashed last week. Salvage operations are now underway.

An intense five-day search ended Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, without finding a trace of 12 Marines who went missing after two helicopters crashed last week. Salvage operations are now underway. (Levi Rea/U.S. Coast Guard)

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Coast Guard has established a temporary safety zone after two Marine Corps helicopters crashed last week, presumably killing 12 Marines.

The safety zone, about three miles off Oahu’s North Shore, was established Thursday to clear the way for salvaging underwater debris after the Jan. 14 crash, which remains under investigation.

An intense five-day search ended Tuesday without finding a trace of the Marines. The helicopters’ four life rafts were found with no sign that they had been used.

The safety zone — which will remain in effect through Feb. 10, or until salvage operations are complete — encompasses waters extending a mile in all directions around the location of the salvage operations, about three miles northwest of a small boat harbor in Haleiwa.

No vessel or person is permitted to enter the safety zone without Coast Guard authorization. Violators face penalties of up to $40,000 for each infraction, or a criminal sentence of up to 25 years and a $250,000 fine, the Coast Guard said. Vessels may also be seized and held liable for any monetary assessments.

The Marines is heading the salvage work and will continue to search for debris and the missing Marines’ remains.

Capt. James D. Jenkins, Hawaii Coast Guard commander, told reporters Tuesday that a widespread debris field had been found using remotely controlled underwater vehicles. The debris was consistent with what would be found from the helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallions.

The helicopters did not have voice recorders or other devices to provide highly detailed information about the crash, which means investigators will have to painstakingly piece together much of the debris.

An aviation mishap board will investigate the cause of the crash and possibly provide recommendations to prevent incidents.

Memorial service

Marine Corps Base Hawaii will host a memorial service for the 12 Marines at 10 a.m. Friday in hangar 102, according to the 1st Battalion 12th Marines’ Facebook page.

While there is “no way to comprehend the grief their families feel today, this we do know: These proud Marines died as they lived, in service to a country they loved and in dedication to a cause greater than themselves,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement Wednesday.

Efforts by the Coast Guard, Navy, Marines and others to search day and night in rough seas and heavy swells was testimony that “leave no man behind” is “not a simple slogan: It was a solemn oath,” he said.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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