Search Turns to Black Box

A rescue mission turns into a recovery mission for nine military members

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Coast Guard personnel depart on a search and rescue mission after a collision between a Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and a Coast Guard C-130 plane which took place Thursday evening near San Clemente Island, October 30, 2009 at the Coast Guard base in San Diego, California.

    Crews are no longer searching for survivors in the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter and a Coast Guard plane.

    After days of scouring the ocean for nine missing military members, the search turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission  Sunday morning.

    The decision to call of the search for survivors was based on wreckage recovered, the 60 plus hours of time passed, and cold water exposure models.

    "I've reached the conclusion that hope is no longer viable," United States Coast Guard District 11 Commander Admiral Joseph Castill said. "We grieve this loss with the families, this is not the outcome we hoped for, prayed for, that we had worked diligently to accomplish."

    The pilots of the AH-1W Super Cobra that collided with a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 Thursday were identified as Maj. Samuel Leigh, 35, from Maine and 1st Lt. Thomas Claiborne, 26, from Colorado. They were both pilots with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469.

    Searching for Survivors

    [DGO] Searching for Survivors
    A Coast Guard plane and a Marine Corps helicopter that collided mid-air burst into a fireball, according to Marines on at least one chopper that witnessed the crash.

     There is still no word on that any remains have been recovered. Among the immediate goals now - recovering the flight data recorder believed to be 2400 feet deep in the Pacific.

    Memorial services will likely be held at the end of next week.

    One pilot's father, David Leigh, said his son, who was not married, was based in San Diego and was focused on a military career "since age 3." Leigh went to Norwich University, a military school in Vermont, and joined the Marines right after graduation in 1996.

    "He wasn't mechanically inclined, so we were particularly proud of him, because he had to master an awful lot," said David Leigh, who lives in Belgrade. The family last spoke to their son Wednesday by phone when he told them he would be night-flying the following evening.

    The C-130 took off from Sacramento Thursday to look for a missing boat off San Diego. At the same time, a formation of four helicopters, two from Miramar, and two from Camp Pendleton were conducting a training mission.

    The Pentagon said the C130 broadsided one of the AH1-Cobra helicopters from Camp Pendleton.

    The missing crewmembers from the Coast Guard C-130 are:

    •     Lt. Cmdr. Che J. Barnes, 35, Capay, Calif., Aircraft Commander
    •     Lt. Adam W. Bryant, 28, Crewe, Va., Co-Pilot.
    •     Chief Petty Officer John F. Seidman, 43, Stockton, Calif., Flight Engineer.
    •     Petty Officer 2nd Class Carl P. Grigonis, 35, Mayfield Heights, Ohio, Navigator.
    •     Petty Officer 2nd Class Monica L. Beacham, 29, Decaturville, Tenn., Radio Operator.
    •     Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason S. Moletzsky, 26, Norristown, Pa., Air Crew.
    •     Petty Officer 3rd Class Danny R. Kreder II, 22, Elm Mott, Texas, Drop Master.

    All were stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, Calif., where their aircraft was based.