A U.S. Coast Guard plane and a Marine Corps helicopter collided on Thursday evening off San Clemente Island, a U.S. Navy-owned island about 68 miles (109 km) west of San Diego.
Seven people were on board the Coast Guard C-130 transport plane, and two more aboard the Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. Massive search is underway, trying to rescue survivors.
“Throughout the night the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy have actively engaged in the search for survivors. There is a debris field that has been located, and we’re continuing to search for survivors,” said a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman, Petty Officer Second Class Jetta Disco.
The Coast Guard says the window of survivability for the nine personnel is 20 hours or more in the ocean waters, depending on their body type and the equipment they may have worn.
“We are always hopeful. We’re working hard. And the assumption is always that they are alive,” said Marine Corps Captain Thomas Farris at a press conference this morning.
The FAA said its controllers were in contact with the C-130 until several minutes before the crash, when they told the pilots to contact military air traffic control. The plane was about 1,000 feet over the ocean at the time, entering airspace used for military exercises. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said he did not know if the pilots ever talked to military controllers.
O’Neil said investigators are unsure whether the crew of the C-130 was using night vision goggles during the fligh. The aircract has other sensor systems that can be used at night for search and rescue without the crew resorting to night vision goggles, he said.
If the helicopters and C-130 were operating in a military exercise area, it would have been up to the pilots and crew to “see and avoid” each other. Air traffic control and radar tracking would have provided awareness of other aircraft in the area, but as one pilot told ABC News, “When you’re in those areas it is the wild west.”
I hope all nine people survived the crash and are rescued soon!