Navy Declares 5 Missing Sailors Dead After Search Off San Diego

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An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, from the "Eightballers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on March 19, 2017. (Ian Kinkead/U.S. Navy)

The Navy on Saturday declared five sailors dead days after their helicopter fell from the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego.

The service launched a search and rescue mission on Tuesday that included the Coast Guard, the littoral combat ship Cincinnati, and helicopters from two other squadrons. One crew member was rescued shortly after the incident but none of the others were recovered.

The decision to end the search came “after more than 72 hours of coordinated rescue efforts encompassing 34 search and rescue flights, over 170 hours of flight time, with 5 search helicopters and constant surface vessel search,” the Navy said in a statement.

The names of the five dead sailors were to be released in 24 hours to allow for notification of next of kin “as a matter of respect for the families and in accordance with Navy policy,” the service said.

The incident occurred at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when an MH-60S Seahawk belonging to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, based at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., was conducting routine operations on the Lincoln about 60 nautical miles off the coast of San Diego.

A Navy spokesman declined to say what caused the helicopter to fall off the deck of the ship and plummet into the water.

Hours after the incident, the service announced that one of the helicopter's crew members had been rescued and that five sailors on the aircraft carrier were injured in the incident. However, since then no additional details on the mishap or the names of the sailors involved had been released.

The Coast Guard confirmed that they paused flying helicopters in support of the search and rescue efforts Thursday morning.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Coast Guard Pauses Search Flights for Missing Helicopter Crew as the Navy Offers No Updates

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