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Flier Killed in Crash of Navy Helicopter

Times Staff Writer

The co-pilot of a Navy helicopter was killed and two other crewmen were injured Friday when their aircraft crashed at the entrance to San Diego Bay shortly after taking off from North Island Naval Air Station.

The Sikorsky SH-60B appeared to develop a mechanical malfunction upon takeoff and slammed into shallow water just off Point Loma at 4:25 p.m., a Navy spokesman said. However, the Navy declined to speculate on the cause of the accident later Friday evening and said that an investigation has been launched.

The Navy also is reviewing plans to salvage the wrecked helicopter, which could be seen belly-up just below the water’s surface in television footage from the scene.

Navy spokesman Ken Mitchell said the crash was the first on the West Coast involving the SH-60B, which has been in service with the Navy since 1981. Designed for anti-submarine warfare and stationed aboard ships when they are deployed at sea, the helicopter was part of Anti-Submarine Squadron (Light) 45, he said.

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The co-pilot, whose identity was being withheld pending the notification of relatives, was taken by Life Flight helicopter to UC San Diego Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6 p.m.

The pilot, identified as Lt. Henry Harris, 38, was listed in stable condition at the Navy Hospital in Balboa Park with “non-life-threatening injuries” that included broken bones, Mitchell said. Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Blacksmith, 24, an anti-submarine warfare operator, was treated at the same hospital for bumps and bruises, Mitchell said.

Harris and Blacksmith were rescued by helicopters from North Island. The co-pilot was picked up by a Coast Guard cutter and taken to the nearby submarine base at Ballast Point, where he was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation until being flown to the hospital.


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