Four crew members and seven Marines disappeared after an Army helicopter crashed offshore during a training exercise Tuesday night near the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
A Pentagon official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the soldiers are presumed dead.
However, USA Today notes that officials at the Eglin Air Force Base will not confirm that.
“There’s always hope,” Mike Spaits, a spokesman at Eglin, said early this morning. “There’s always hope. Search and recovery — that’s the key.”
During a Senate Foreign Relations hearing today, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter did not mention anything about the soldiers being presumed dead.
In fact, he said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families as the search and rescue continues.”
Nevertheless, AP reports that “human remains washed ashore and parts of a military helicopter were recovered,” noting that “despite the presumption of death, the military still called it a rescue mission Wednesday.”
According to an article by the Pentagon’s media arm, DoD News, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were participating in a training exercise overnight.
The helicopters “are assigned to the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Hammond, Louisiana” and “they were participating in a routine training mission involving the Marine Special Operations Regiment from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,” explained Andy Bourland, a spokesman for Eglin.
One of the helicopters crashed into pieces offshore.
It was reported missing at about 8:30 p.m. on March 10, Bourland revealed.
“Search and rescue team found debris at about 2 a.m. today,” he added.
All Marines and soldiers aboard the second helicopter safely returned to Eglin.
“The area was under a fog advisory when the crash occurred Tuesday night near Eglin Air Force Base about 50 miles east of Pensacola,” reports USA Today.
“The extreme fog still present around noon Wednesday impeded the search, preventing rescuers from going airborne,” according to Sara Vidoni, a public affairs specialist at Eglin.
President Obama, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and various members of Congress have reportedly expressed their condolences to the victim’s family and have communicated their appreciation for the soldier’s service and sacrifice.
“About 60 searchers from multiple agencies, including the Coast Guard, are at the scene centered on a 50-square-mile area of the Santa Rosa Sound between the barrier island and the mainland,” reports USA Today.
“One large piece of the helicopter has washed up on shore,” it adds.