Coast Guard copter crash report likely will be released this month


POSTED: Sunday, October 11, 2009

Question: Whatever happened to the investigation into the cause of the Sept. 4, 2008, crash of a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter that killed four Coast Guard members?

Answer: The Coast Guard said the findings of the investigation of the training accident should be released before the end of the month. The CG6505 helicopter crashed while conducting a training mission five miles south of Honolulu Airport.

An underwater search recovered “;essentially the remains”; of the pilot Cmdr. Thomas Nelson, 42, of Staten Island, N.Y. The bodies of co-pilot Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, 44; rescue swimmer Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin, 38; and flight mechanic Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols, 27, were recovered at the scene.

A robotic submersible device was used in the salvage effort, which also reclaimed the rotor head, gearbox, main drive shaft and other parts of the downed HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from a depth of 1,600 feet. The helicopter went down while participating in a rescue drill with a 47-foot vessel.

The Coast Guard dedicated a memorial at its Barbers Point Air Station to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. The memorial also honors another lost crew from Barbers Point—the three crew members who died when an HH-52 helicopter crashed Jan. 7, 1982, while en route to a search-and-rescue mission north of Molokai.

Lt. Cmdr. Horton Johnson, Lt. Colleen Cain and Petty Officer 2nd Class David Thompson died in that accident. The new memorial replaces a smaller plaque that honored the 1982 crew.

The new memorial consists of a semi-circular lava rock wall with a bronzed helmet and flight boots in the center. Two plaques on either side of the statue tell the stories of each crew.


This Star-Bulletin staff update was written by Gregg K. Kakesako. You can write us at What Ever Happened to… Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).