A Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter on a training mission crashed Tuesday night in Mobile Bay in Alabama. The helicopter carried a crew of four. The crash occurred about 8:30 p.m. Rescue crews who arrived on scene shortly after the crash recovered a crewmember from the helicopter who was later declared deceased. He was identified as Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge who was the rescue swimmer aboard. The other crewmembers were the pilot, Lt. Commander Dale Taylor, co-pilot Lt. junior grade Thomas Cameron, and the engineer, Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight who were declared missing.
The Coast Guard immediately launched an intensive search in the hope of finding survivors. Coast Guard units involved in the search were the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Stingray, homeported in Mobile, two MH-65C Dolphin helicopters and crews from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida, two 26-foot Trailerable Aids to Navigation Boats and crews from Coast Guard sector Mobile, the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team, the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego dive team, Alabama Marine Resources, and the Mobile County Sheriff's Department.
The search continued for 36 hours with the units conducting about 30 search patterns that covered 1,198 nautical miles within a search area of more than 200 nautical square miles in Mobile bay.. Thursday night U.S. Coast Guard officials reported that they had recovered the bodies of two of the three missing crew members, Lt. Commander Dale Taylor and Lieutenant junior grade Thomas Cameron. They were found about 100 yards from where the fuselage of the helicopter was found.
The search was hampered by surface fog and the fact that the waters of Mobile bay are very muddy in the spring due to river run offs which limited visibility underwater to 5 feet in most cases and as little as 1 foot in othes..
The tail section and the fuselage have been recovered as well as the flight data recorder, similar to the "black box" on airplanes and will be stored and analyzed as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash.
The Coast Guard has suspended the active search and rescue operations for the remaining crewmember and crews are now conducting salvage and recovery operations today. "The decision to suspend the active search was terribly difficult," said Captain Donald Rose the commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile.