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ARLINGTON, Va. — Three sailors from Naval Station Mayport, Fla., have been killed in a helicopter crash off the North Carolina coast, naval station spokesman Bill Austin said Monday.

Killed were Lt. Robert L. Elortegui, pilot, 32, of Miami; Lt. Thomas Brantley, pilot, 27, of Ahoskie, N.C.; and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Nestor L. Oterolebron, 27, of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Austin said.

“These men were our shipmates, and our hears certainly go out to their families, and their honorable service will never be forgotten,” he said.

Austin said he did not know if the bodies had been recovered. A memorial service for the three men was held Monday at Mayport, he said.

On Sept. 24, the three were conducting exercises with the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group near Cherry Point, N.C., Austin said.

Communications with the SH-60 Seahawk helicopter were lost at 10:50 p.m. while the anti-submarine helicopter was practicing landing on a ship, Austin said.

By 11 a.m. on Sept. 26, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard called off rescue efforts after an extensive search of a debris field about 35 miles east of Morehead City, Austin said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, Austin said.

Austin said he did not know what weather conditions were like at the time of the crash.

The incident occurred one day before a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, killing all five crewmembers.

On Sept. 23, an Army Apache helicopter went down in northern Iraq. The crew was rescued uninjured.

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