Bodies of two missing helicopter crewmen found

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 02, 2012 10:48 AM

By Kelli Dugan

MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - U.S. Coast Guard officials have located the bodies of two of three helicopter crew members missing since a four-man aircraft crashed into Alabama's Mobile Bay during a training exercise Tuesday.

The fourth crew member, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, was found unresponsive shortly after communication with the aircraft was lost, and he was later pronounced dead.

The bodies of Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor and Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron, the pilot and co-pilot, were found late Thursday afternoon about 100 yards from the site where the helicopter fuselage was dislodged and removed from the bay's muddy bottom earlier in the day, said Capt. Donald J. Rose, commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile.

Rose said sonar was used in locating the crewmen. Active search and rescue operations were suspended Thursday night.

Friday's efforts instead will focus on salvage and recovery as teams continue searching for Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight of Thomasville, Alabama.

"We saturated 95 percent of Mobile Bay for nearly two days with both aircraft and boats to thoroughly cover the search area. The decision to suspend the active search was terribly difficult," Rose said in a statement.

Rose said Taylor was from Snow Hill, North Carolina, and Cameron was from Portland, Oregon.

The helicopter crashed into Mobile Bay just after 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday southwest of Point Clear, Alabama. The flight originated from the Aviation Training Center in Mobile.

The helicopter's flight data recorder has been recovered, but the cause of the crash remains under investigation, Rose said.

(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Paul Thomasch)