Massachusetts Marine Among Missing in Hawaii Chopper Crash - NBC 7 San Diego
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Massachusetts Marine Among Missing in Hawaii Chopper Crash

Two Marine helicopters went down off the island of Oahu

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    State Police: Local Marine Among the Missing After Helicopter Crash

    A local Marine is among those missing after two Marine Corps helicopters crashed late Thursday night off the Hawaiian island of Oahu. (Published Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016)

    A local Marine is among those missing after two Marine Corps helicopters crashed late Thursday night off the Hawaiian island of Oahu, according to Massachusetts State Police.

    The helicopters, carrying six crew members each, collided and went down while on a nighttime training mission, and rescuers searched choppy waters Friday where debris had been sighted, military officials said.

    Among them was Marine Cpl. Christopher Orlando, of Hingham.

    There was no immediate word on the fate of those aboard or what caused the crash.

    The transport helicopters known as CH-53Es crashed just before midnight Thursday, officials said.

    A Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted a debris field 2 1/2 miles offshore early Friday. The debris covered an area of 2 miles, Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said.

    The choppers are part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military's largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armored vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.

    Elaray Navarro, a retiree who lives across the street from the beach, said she heard two booms late Thursday that were loud enough to shake her house.

    "I threw my blanket off, put my slippers on and ran outside thinking it was a car accident," she said.

    She expressed concern for the crew as she watched the pounding surf from a beach park in Haleiwa.

    "I pray to the man upstairs to help them. To bring them home safely," she said.

    The search included Air Force units, as well as a Honolulu Fire Department rescue boat and Coast Guard cutters, officials said.

    Two Navy ships, the USS John Paul Jones and the USS Gridley, were also participating, along with a Navy squadron of SH-60 helicopters, Navy spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan said.

    As the rescue efforts went on, about two dozen Marines gathered Friday morning on the beach at Waimea Bay, a popular surfing spot a few miles from the search operation.

    The family of Capt. Kevin Roche believes he was also one of the missing Marines aboard the helicopters.

    "We believe the Marines and Coast Guard are doing everything they can to bring Kevin and his fellow Marines home safely, and we are grateful to everyone involved in the rescue," said a family statement distributed by brother-in-law Anthony Kuenzel in St. Louis, Missouri.

    An aunt posted on a Marine Corps Facebook page that three Marines visited Roche's parents and reported that he was missing.

    Steady rain was falling on the North Shore just before daybreak, and rough water conditions were forecast.

    A swell approaching the area was to bring dangerous 30- to 40-foot waves to beaches and 10- to 20-foot seas near the rescue operation, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Foster said. Winds were expected to be relatively calm at 10 mph or less.

    The crash comes less than a year after a Marine Corps tilt-rotor aircraft crashed during a training exercise in Hawaii, killing two Marines. The MV-22 Osprey went down last May with 21 Marines and a Navy corpsman on board.

    In 2011, one serviceman was killed and three others injured when a CH-53D Sea Stallion chopper crashed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.