Downed helicopter wreckage removed from Kaneohe Bay

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's been an emotional day for Marines here in Hawaii.  The remains of Corporal Jonathan Faircloth are being flown back to his home state of Pennsylvania today.  He was killed in when the helicopter he was riding in crashed last Tuesday.  The members of his squadron made this sticker to wear on their helmets in his honor.

Also today the helicopter wreckage was were removed from Kaneohe Bay where its sat in the water the past ten days.

The mission was done with a heavy heart, as the crew that lifted the wreckage away is from the same squadron, using the exact same type of helicopter as the one that went down.

The helicopter was cut into two pieces.  The first was the cabin section.  It weighed about 7,000 pounds.  The Marine helicopter dropped the harness below to Navy crews on the sandbar who hooked it up.

The helicopter hovered for a moment to make sure it was secure before flying the two miles back to the marine base where it was gently placed on a landing field.

Piece two was even more important.  It is heavier weighing 8,000 pounds and included the main rotor section.

"It was part of the investigation so we had to make sure we were very careful with it. We used a special lifting harness the Marine Corps provided to us and we picked up the rotor head by using that harness, we had to pick it up sideways and bring it up to the middle so we didn't crush the load of the aircraft," said Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey P. Landry Jr., Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit, US Navy.

Piece two was also flown back to the base and gingerly successfully set down on the ground, delivering a sense of relief for those working on the mission.

"When that second piece touched down definitely everyone was smiling onboard the boat. That was good," said Commander Thomas Murphy, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit, US Navy.

Investigators will take a closer look at the wreckage.  It'll be about a month before the final report is finished.

"So at this point the lessons learned, we don't have too many of those yet," said Lt. Col. Mark Revor, Commanding Officer, US Marine Corps.

Environmentally speaking the Marines say the crash had minimal impact on the limestone the sandbar is made of.

"There has been no damage to the sandbar. We've had navy divers out at the site and they inspected it and there's been no damage," said Randall Hu, Environment Department, US Marine Corps.

State workers combed a 200 by 200 yard area at the crash site looking for scrap metal left behind. The US Coast Guard is still enforcing a 500 yard perimeter around the crash site.  They hope to lift restrictions this weekend.

"That's going to be up to the recovery team. We want to make sure we mitigate the entire area so no one is injured by what debris is still out there," said Lt. Commander Marcella Granquist, US Coast Guard.

It's the final piece to a tragedy Marines and their family members pray they don't see again.

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