Ala. Coast Guard chopper crash: 1 dead, 3 missing

February 29, 2012 - 9:17 AM
Helicopter Crash

Firefighters from the Barnwell Volunteer Fire Department look out into the bay as they wait on standby at the Mullet Point Park in Point Clear, Ala. after a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crashed in Mobile Bay late Tuesday Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Press-Register/John David Mercer)

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A helicopter crashed in Alabama's Mobile Bay on a training mission, leaving one crewmember dead and three others missing, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

Divers planned to return to the sunken wreckage after daylight Wednesday. Overnight fog had hampered searches from the air, Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said.

The MH-65C helicopter crashed Tuesday evening near Point Clear, Ala. One crewmember was found unresponsive and later declared dead, the Coast Guard said in a news release early Wednesday.

"Our main concern is locating the three remaining crewmembers," Bordelon told The Associated Press early Wednesday.

Edwards said divers overnight had gone to the site of the helicopter, in about 13 feet of water, but were unable to gain access to its fuselage. He said they planned to try again Wednesday morning with hopes of confirming whether the crewmembers were inside.

"The sun is up, which improves things greatly," Edwards said around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The aircraft had departed the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., on a training mission earlier Tuesday, Bordelon said. Coast Guard officials say it went down about two to three miles southwest of Point Clear. The three missing are all Coast Guard members.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crewmembers during this difficult time," Capt. Don Rose, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Mobile, said in a statement.

The Coast Guard said two helicopters, an airplane and several vessels were involved in the search.

The missing crew members are "very well outfitted with survival gear wearing cold weather exposure suits," Rose told WALA-TV.

National Weather Service officials said winds in the area Tuesday night were southeast at about 15 mph, with a water temperature of about 63 degrees.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.