Coast Guard chopper crashes in Mobile Bay

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — As divers searched the muddy bottom of Alabama’s Mobile Bay, a salvage ship was dispatched Wednesday to the sunken wreckage of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that crashed on a training mission, leaving one crewmember dead and three others missing.

Officials said the search would continue through the night throughout the choppy bay in the hope of finding survivors.

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

The crewmembers were outfitted with survival gear called “dry suits” for the water which officials said was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said all the crew members received extensive training in emergency escape. He declined to say how long a person could typically survive in a dry suit in 60-degree water, but said, “They look at beyond the survivability charts.”

The man who died was a rescue swimmer, said Capt. Don Rose, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Mobile. Rose said rescuers tried to revive the rescue swimmer when they found him, but were unable to. The three missing crewmembers were the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight mechanic.

Names of the four crewmembers have not been released.

Divers swam to the wreckage in about 13 feet of water, but were unable to gain access to its fuselage.

A Coast Guard official told the Mobile Press-Register that the forward end of the helicopter is submerged in mud at the bottom of Mobile Bay and rescue divers have had trouble getting access to the crew cabin. Press-Register reporters at the scene saw the tail of the helicopter sticking out of the water. The aircraft appears to have crashed nose-first into the bay, the newspaper reported.

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