All 8 bodies recovered from downed U.S. Marine chopper in Nepal
The wreckage of a Marine helicopter from Camp Pendleton missing in Nepal since Tuesday has been found and there are no survivors, the U.S. military said Friday.
Six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers were aboard the UH-1Y Huey when it disappeared while on a relief mission after a pair of earthquakes in the mountainous nation.
All eight bodies were recovered by Friday night, the U.S. military announced. The cause of the crash has not been determined.
The wreckage was found by a Nepalese search team about 8 miles north of Charikot, the military said in a statement.
The Pentagon said that the families of the Marines had been notified and that the names of the crew members would be released within 24 hours.
“They were courageous, they were selfless individuals dedicated to the international rescue mission here in Nepal,” Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler said.
Air Force search and rescue crew identified the crash site in a rugged forest at 11,000 feet elevation, but couldn’t stay on the scene because of high wind and inclement weather.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter thanked the Nepalese and Indian governments for their continued support in the search and recovery operations.
“This tragedy is a reminder of the vital but dangerous role that American service members play in delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said. “Our mission continues in Nepal, and we remain dedicated to answering the call when disaster strikes, both in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.”
To verify that the broken, burned wreckage was that of the missing Huey, the U.S. sent in four Air Force pararescue specialists and a combat rescue officer. That verification was announced Friday morning.
No distress call was made before the Huey went missing while taking supplies to stranded villagers, but there may have been a transmission about a fuel problem, officials said.
The aircraft is attached to Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton.
The squadron was in the Philippines on a training mission when it was directed to Nepal to join the relief effort after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 25 that killed more than 8,300 people. On Tuesday, it was responding to a magnitude 7.3 aftershock that caused additional deaths and destruction.
An intense three-day search involved U.S., Indian and Nepalese aircraft, as well as Nepalese ground troops, a special-forces platoon and a battalion-size unit, officials said.
Although officials had not identified the crew members aboard the helicopter Friday, a television station in Wichita, Kan., interviewed the father and the former high school football coach of Marine Capt. Chris Norgren, identified as the pilot. Richard Norgren said his son had degrees in aerospace engineering and mathematics and that flying was his passion.
“He’s passionate in all areas of his life, whether it’s spirituality [or] as a Marine,” coach Alan Schuckman told TV station KSN. “He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known.”
Despite the search, the U.S. effort to get relief supplies to the earthquake-stricken population by Huey and Osprey aircraft continued, officials said.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect figure for the number of deaths caused by the earthquake April 25.
Follow Tony Perry on Twitter at @LATsandiego
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