The 12 Marines who went missing after their two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters apparently crashed off the coast of Hawaii during a nighttime training mission last Thursday evening have officially been declared dead.
Casualty assistance calls officers personally notified each family of the change of status, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.
“Although we welcome the outpouring of support from the general public, we must restrict attendance for this event,” said the Marine Corps.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search and rescue operation for the missing Marines that began late last Thursday when a civilian on a beach reported seeing the aircraft flying and then a fireball.
Hours after the two helicopters, carrying six crew members each, failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane reportedly spotted debris off of Oahu.
Navy, National Guard, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine personnel as well as the Hawaii Fire, Police and Ocean Safety, were all involved in the search.
“A decision to suspend searching without finding survivors is extremely difficult given the depth of its impact and I know I speak for the entire Coast Guard when I say our thoughts and prayers are with Marine Corps helicopter squadron and particularly with families and loved ones of those missing,” reportedly said Capt. Jim Jenkins, chief of staff and acting commander, Coast Guard 14th District.
By the time the search was officially suspended, a total of 130 rescue personnel had covered 40,530 nautical square miles, an area about the size of Florida, in a 115-hour search effort, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, CNN reports.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter expressed the Pentagon’s condolences to the loved one and families of the Marines on Wednesday.
“Our hearts go out to the loved ones and family members of 12 Marines missing since an apparent helicopter collision off the coast of Hawaii last week,” Carter said in statement. “While there is no way to comprehend the grief their families feel today, this we do know: These proud Marines died as they lived, in service to a country they loved and in dedication to a cause greater than themselves.”
“The loss of these 12 brave Americans is a tragic reminder of the risks our men and women in uniform take each day in service to our country,” also said Carter. “Today and on all days, we remember that it is because of their dedicated efforts that we live in peace and security.”
Carter thanked the U.S. military personnel as well as state and local authorities for their efforts to locate and rescue the Marines
“For the men and women who encountered rough seas and heavy swells over the course of these operations, ‘leave no man behind’ was not a simple slogan; it was a solemn oath,” he said. “We deeply appreciate their determination and the strong support they received from state and local authorities and the people of Hawaii.”
The 12 fallen Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 were from various states and ranged in age from 21 to 41.
They were identified as:
— Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, of College Station, Texas;
— Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, of Philadelphia;
— Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, of St. Louis;
— Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, of Florence, Alabama;
— Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24, of Chaska, Minnesota;
— Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, of Gardners, Pennsylvania;
— Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, of Woodruff, South Carolina;
— Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, of Florala, Alabama;
— Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, of Spring, Texas;
— Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, of Fort Myers, Florida;
— Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, of Hingham, Massachusetts; and
— Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, of Aumsville, Oregon.
Governor of the State of Hawaii David Ige has ordered the flags of the United States and State of Hawaii be flown at half-staff for five days, beginning on sunrise on Friday and ending on sunset the following Tuesday.
The Marine Corps base in Hawaii is also expected to fly its flag at half-staff.