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Salvage operations end at Black Hawk crash site off Oahu’s coast

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Wheeler Army Airfield and a fireboat from the Honolulu Fire Department take part in search-and-rescue operations last month after an Army Black Hawk went down off the coast of Oahu.

COURTESY OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2017

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Salvage operations have been completed for a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed off Oahu’s northwest coast last month.

Investigators determined that enough “physical and visual evidence” had been collected to allow a thorough investigation of the Aug. 15 crash, which took the lives of all five crew members aboard, an Army statement said.

The Black Hawk, with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, was one of two helicopters conducting routine night training out of Wheeler Army Airfield.

Search-and-rescue operations were suspended on Aug. 21.

Navy salvage divers, using underwater drones, systematically mapped the ocean floor off Kaena Point, Oahu, the Army said. Once divers identified the main debris field, they began diving from the Motor Vessel HOS Dominator in early September in search of human remains, the Army said.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Woeber and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Cantrell were declared deceased by Army officials late last month, though no remains were found, an earlier Army statement said. The other three soldiers — 1st Lt. Kathryn Bailey, Staff Sgt. Abigail Milam and Sgt. Michael Nelson — were declared dead after analysis of organic matter discovered among recovered debris matched their DNA.

Officials from the 25th Infantry Division ended the monthlong salvage-and-recovery operation after concluding searches were unlikely to find any additional remains of the crew members, the Army said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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