Crews have widened the search area to look for five Army aviators after a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed approximately two miles west of Kaena Point.
With the search now in its second full day, the area has expanded to as much as 50 miles offshore due to swift and dynamic currents in the area.
“This is normal. Search areas do expand,” said Lt. Scott Carr, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “Any time you’re in the water, you get drift, and so the currents go in different directions. Certain currents actually move north, certain currents move west, and that’s going to expand your search area over time. So we’re very aware of that and we plan out ahead of it, and that’s why it expands out.”
Fixed-wing aviation assets are searching the leading edge while helicopters and vessels are concentrating efforts 15 to 20 miles offshore.
Two UH-60s from the 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade were taking part in a routine training mission Tuesday night when one helicopter lost radio and visual contact with the other. The helicopter was reported missing at around 9:30 p.m.
Personnel at the joint forward incident command post at Haleiwa Boat Harbor continue to coordinate search-and-rescue efforts.
Officials say so far, none of the aviators have been located. Debris continues to be spotted and recovered in the area off Kaena Point, which include more helmets and pieces of the helicopter.
“We constantly have assets in the air and on the water searching for the air crew and recovering debris. We believe it’s related to this incident and that’s been ongoing for the last 24 hours,” said Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, 25th Infantry Division. “I will continue to emphasize that this is still a highly active search-and-rescue operation. That is our focus and that is our mission bringing our soldiers home.”
Debris from the crash should be considered hazardous material and should only be recovered by recovery teams with the proper training and personal protective equipment. The debris poses potential risk and could cause serious bodily harm due to sharp edges.
Based on current models, officials say debris could wash up on shore anywhere from Yokohama Bay and around Kaena Point to Haleiwa.
Those who see or encounter debris consistent with this type of aircraft along the north and west side of Oahu are asked to report it to responders by calling the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Staff Duty Officer at (808) 656-1080.
A safety zone extending out in a five nautical mile (5.75 statue mile) radius from the point 21-27.919N 158-21.547W, geographically located roughly two miles northwest of Kaena Point, was established by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port Wednesday. No vessels or persons are authorized to enter this zone without prior approval from the Captain of the Port. A broadcast notice to mariners has been issued.
Kaena State Park trails are currently closed at this time.
Weather on scene is currently 17 mph winds with 4 foot seas and isolated showers.