Salvage ship to assist in Black Hawk recovery off Hawaii
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: September 8, 2017
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A 240-foot salvage ship is on its way to aid in the recovery of a crashed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and its missing crew west of Kaena Point, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division said.
The Military Sealift Command-chartered MV HOS Dominator, a submarine support ship, is expected to arrive in the coming days, Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg said Thursday.
The ship’s involvement represents a transition from seafloor sonar mapping and camera observation by the Navy using an unmanned underwater vehicle and remotely operated vehicle to actual salvage and recovery.
All five crew members from the Hawaii-based Black Hawk have been declared deceased since the nighttime Aug. 15 crash and an intensive search at sea involving the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and city and state agencies.
Aboard the aircraft were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian M. Woeber, 41; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen T. Cantrell, 32; 1st Lt. Kathryn M. Bailey, 26; Staff Sgt. Abigail R. Milam, 33; and Sgt. Michael L. Nelson, 30. None of the crew has been recovered, Kellogg said.
The Black Hawk was on a routine nighttime training mission flying some distance behind another helicopter when it disappeared without a mayday call. It was reported missing at about 9:30 p.m. Floating pieces of the fuselage and four flight crew helmets were subsequently located.
Kellogg said the Navy “found the edges of what they think is the majority of the debris field” using underwater robots. A lot of the wreckage is in 100 to 150 feet of water roughly a mile offshore, he said.
“There are some items that are a bit more northwest (of Kaena Point), but the primary area is probably more generally west,” Kellogg said.
Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, who had been conducting seafloor mapping, are expected to dive on the debris field starting next week.
“They won’t be able to get divers in the water until Sunday, Monday, Tuesday — somewhere in that time frame (and depending on) however long it takes to do the rehearsals they need to do,” Kellogg said.
Currents are expected to be a complication for the divers, who need a stationary support vessel for the topside hoses that will supply them with air, he said.
“At the bottom there are some pretty strong currents,” Kellogg said. “It’s certainly going to be a challenge for the salvage effort.”
The Navy’s Military Sealift Command described the MV HOS Dominator as having an advanced computerized positioning system to keep the vessel in one place. It also has a crane for the recovery of helicopter wreckage.
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