Search for bodies from Blackhawk crash suspended; 9 recovered

The wreckage of the helicopter was found Wednesday.
By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 12, 2015 at 2:18 PM
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DESTIN, Fla., March 12 (UPI) -- Update 5 p.m. EST:

The U.S. Coast Guard announced it has suspended the search for missing soldiers or Marines still missing from the crash of a Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise in Florida.

The news comes after the remains of nine of the 11 people -- seven Marines and two soldiers -- on board the helicopter were recovered and identified.

"The decision to suspend is always difficult," Layne Carter, search and rescue mission coordinator, said in a press release. "With heavy hearts, we have decided to suspend active search and rescue operations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of the members involved in this tragedy."

"At this point, we're not hopeful for survivors, and we are transitioning our search and rescue to a recovery effort," said Col. Monte Cannon, 96th Test Wing vice-commander with the Louisiana National Guard said.

Original story follows:

The National Guard said two bodies have been recovered and two others may be in the wreckage of the Blackhawk helicopter that crashed during a training exercise in Florida.

Officials located the wreckage of the Blackhawk helicopter at about 9 a.m. at a depth of 25 feet on Wednesday. The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from Eglin Air Force Base had a "high-impact" crash under heavy fog during a nighttime training exercise.

The seven Marines and four Army aircrew members aboard are presumed dead.

Heavy fog continues to hamper the search for the bodies of the service members, according to Fire Chief Mark Giuliano.

"The conditions out there were very, very dense," Giuliano said. "The boats that did get out there could not see."

The names of the service members have not been released officially but one Marine was identified as Kerry Kemp, whose family was contacted overnight after his remains had been found.

Kemp's sister-in-law said he was a "proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father." He had a one-year-old child.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed his condolences.

The crash is "a reminder to us that those who serve put themselves at risk, both in training and in combat," Dempsey said from Washington, D.C. "We will work with the services to ensure that ... their family members will be well cared for."

The cause of the accident is under investigation. The Air Force, Coast Guard and civilian agencies participated in search operations.

The helicopter was reported missing about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Marines on board were from a special operations regiment out of Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. The helicopters and crew were assigned to the Army National Guard in Hammond, La.

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