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U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown answered questions about its downed HH-65C Dolphin helicopter yesterday at a news conference at Pier 4.
Copter wreckage recovered
A Coast Guard pilot remains missing after a crash during training kills three on board
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Coast Guard officials say wires attached to a rescue basket might be to blame for Thursday night's helicopter crash that killed three officers and left another crew member missing.
"I received a preliminary report today that suggested during that training evolution, something may have gone wrong involving one of the wires for the basket," said Rear Adm. Manson Brown, 14th Coast Guard District commander.
Brown stressed that the investigation is ongoing.
The helicopter's fuselage was recovered and will be examined by a team of Coast Guard investigators from the mainland, Brown said.
"Losing a fellow 'Coastie' is like losing a child; it is an indescribable feeling," said Brown.
The dead were identified as co-pilot Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; rescue swimmer Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin, 38, of San Bernardino, Calif.; and flight mechanic Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols, 27, of Gloucester, Va., according to the Coast Guard. The name of the missing crew member was not released.
James Skimin described his brother, David, as a humble and dedicated Coast Guard officer, who loved adventure.
"The Coast Guard guys know the nature of their job. They were doing their job, and (the crash) was part of life," Skimin said in a telephone interview from California.
Mike Burley / email@example.com
A Coast Guard C-130 flew over Keehi Lagoon yesterday in search of the missing crew member of a Coast Guard helicopter that crashed late Thursday night, killing three others on board.
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Boat and aircraft crews scanned a 10-by-13-mile area of ocean in an overnight search for a Coast Guard pilot missing since a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crashed Thursday night five miles south of Honolulu.
"We have thrown our cloak of comfort and concern around these families as if they were our own."
U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral
The fuselage of the helicopter was recovered and brought to the Sand Island Coast Guard station yesterday, where it will be scrutinized next week in two separate investigations. Dolphin aircraft have a black-box recording device aboard, but it has not been found.
Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, Coast Guard 14th District commander, expressed a note of hope that the officer survived the crash, which killed three other crew members. "When you look at water temperature, the sea state, the crew's swimming ability, there is a possibility of survival," he said yesterday at a news conference.
No information was released about the missing man except that he was one of two pilots aboard.
The bodies of Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, 44, Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin, 38, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols, 27, were recovered Thursday night. They were pronounced dead at the Queen's Medical Center. All three were married and had children, according to the Coast Guard.
The coast guards continue to find the fourth crew member that was involved in a helicopter crash yesterday.
The helicopter was on a routine training exercise, its crew lowering a rescue basket to the deck of a 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat and lifting a dummy aboard the aircraft in simulating a rescue of a person injured at sea.
Brown said a preliminary report indicated that "something may have gone wrong involving one of the wires" to the rescue basket.
He said a preliminary report also indicated there was a radio transmission from the aircraft, "but I am not prepared to call it a mayday." It was not on a recorded line, he said. The first radio report of trouble came from the crew of the lifeboat, which was about two miles from the crash site.
The fuselage initially floated upside down after the crash, then began to sink slowly over several hours. Brown said it only sunk to about 20 feet when the Coast Guard, with the help of a Navy dive team that had been on an exercise nearby, refloated it. He said the ocean depth at the site is reportedly 10,000 feet.
"We could not deduce anything from our initial observation of the fuselage," Brown said.
Brown said the service will undertake "a rigorous set of investigations." A probe convened by Adm. Thad W. Allen, Coast Guard commandant, will focus on safety. An internal investigation called by Brown will focus on "administrative matters," he said.
"We are our own harshest critic. We will take all the evidence we collect and develop as hard-hitting a report so we can learn lessons from this incident, so we don't repeat it," he said.
Brown referred several questions about the safety record and history of the 1984 vintage HH-65 aircraft to national Coast Guard sources. The helicopter was one of four of the C model used locally. "We recently boosted power by re-engining them in the range of the past two years. So this is a new instrument. I am not aware of a crash involving a re-engined Dolphin anywhere."
Brown credited several agencies for their "passionate support" in joining the search. A Hawaii Air National Guard crew observed the 8:15 p.m. crash and stayed at the site to direct the Coast Guard vessel to the location. The teams on the scene overnight included two state Department of Land and Natural Resources boats and two boats and two helicopters from the Honolulu Fire Department, in addition to the Coast Guard cutter Kittiwake from Kauai and another Barbers Point-based HH-65 helicopter.
"Losing a fellow 'Coastie' is like losing a child; it is an indescribable feeling," said Brown, who has been in the service for 30 years. He said he met with the three spouses at the hospital Thursday night. "We have thrown our cloak of comfort and concern around these families as if they were our own. We are going to take care of them in the absence of their loved ones."
Similar training drills take place three times a week, day and night, to prepare for real rescue work.
"The work the Coast Guard does is hazardous," said Brown. "We do dangerous jobs in dangerous environments. We employ training and standard operating procedures to minimize the risk to our people."