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Navy Pilot Identified in Crash of Helicopter

A Florida man was identified Wednesday as the pilot of a Navy SH-3H anti-submarine helicopter that crashed this week, killing all four aboard.

Lt. Lee J. Lacroix, 27, of St. Petersburg was the last victim identified in the crash, which occurred early Tuesday during a routine training search-and-rescue mission about 80 miles off San Diego.

An all-night search that led to the partial recovery of the wreckage was prompted at about 1 a.m. Tuesday after the helicopter crew failed to check in by radio to the aircraft carrier Ranger, from which it was operating, said Ken Mitchell, a spokesman at North Island Naval Air Station.

The Navy has ended its efforts to recover the rest of the wreckage, which is believed to be about 200 feet below sea level, Mitchell said.

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“There are no bodies at this time, and there is still no speculation as to the cause of the crash,” he said, adding that the investigation will be difficult because there are no witnesses. The investigation could take six weeks to six months, Mitchell said.

Two crashes of the SH-3H, also known as the Sea King, have occurred in the past five years, he said, including a November, 1987, crash in Japan and one in May, 1986, off the coast of San Diego. However, he said the Sea King is “an extremely safe helicopter.”

All four crew members lived in San Diego and belonged to Squadron HS-14, including Lacroix, who joined the Navy in June, 1985; co-pilot Lt. (j.g.) Dean A. Patrick, 26, of Hesperia, Mich., who joined the Navy in June, 1985; John J. Taylor, 22, of Lawrenceburg, Ind., who joined in December, 1984; and John E. Palmquist, 22, of Columbus, Ohio, who joined in December, 1985.


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