Navy helicopter vibrations upon landing led to crash that killed 5, report says

An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
(Petty Officer 2nd Class Amber Smalley / U.S. Navy)

A Navy MH-60S Seahawk helicopter experienced “side-to-side” vibrations when it landed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last week, causing its main rotor to strike the flight deck and the helicopter to crash over the side of the ship, according to a Navy safety report published Tuesday.

Five sailors onboard the helicopter were killed. One helicopter crew member was rescued from the water. Five additional sailors onboard the ship were injured in the crash; two were brought ashore for treatment.

The crash remains under investigation and the Navy has released few details. One line on the 28th page of the Naval Safety Center’s mishap summary for September, first reported by Navy Times, says that when the Seahawk landed on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck it began vibrating. That side-to-side movement caused the helicopter’s main rotor to strike the flight deck, which in turn caused the helicopter to go over the side of the ship.


Lt. Samuel Boyle, a spokesperson for the Navy’s 3rd Fleet in San Diego, said Tuesday that the Safety Center report is accurate.

The remains of the crew and the helicopter have not been found.

“The Navy will make every effort to recover the remains and the helicopter,” Boyle said.

Boyle declined to comment on the depth of the ocean where the crash occurred or whether recovery submarines are being deployed in the search. The crash occurred about 60 nautical miles from San Diego.

The helicopter and its crew were assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, based at Naval Air Station North Island. The Abraham Lincoln is also based at the air station.

The sailors killed in the crash were:

  • Lt. Bradley Foster, 29, from Oakhurst, Calif.
  • Lt. Paul Fridley, 28, from Annadale, Va.
  • Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James Buriak, 31, from Salem, Va.
  • Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Md.
  • Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey Tucker, 21, from St. Louis

In 2020, when a Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle sank in 385 feet of water with eight troops aboard near San Clemente Island, a remotely operated submarine found the vehicle — and the remains — in five days.

The Abraham Lincoln was conducting routine operations with its air wing in preparation for a scheduled deployment early next year, the Navy said.

The eastern Pacific is a key training area for the Navy’s 3rd Fleet. The helicopter crash is the third fatal training accident in 13 months in the area, following the sinking of the Marine AAV and an Army Black Hawk crash on San Clemente Island four weeks later that killed two soldiers.


The spouses club of HSC-8 is raising money for the sailors’ surviving families. In three days, an online fundraiser has raised more than $218,000 for the families.