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Search Suspended As Hope Fades For Eight Men Missing

November 25, 1996

ARCATA, Calif. (AP) _ Crews combing the sea for eight crewmen missing since their military plane plummeted into the ocean halted their search and said they had little hope of finding survivors.

Only one survivor from the Air Force Reserve plane has been pulled from the chilly Pacific Ocean waters, and two bodies have been recovered.

``The crew members are considered missing, but it’s very grim,″ Air Force Staff Sgt. Dave Bartlett said Sunday. ``I don’t see how there can be any survivors after this length of time.″

Two U.S. Coast Guard cutters were expected to monitor debris from the wreckage off the coast overnight, but neither the Coast Guard nor the Air Force planned to send out search helicopters this morning, officials said.

Tech. Sgt. Robert T. Vogel, 31, of Albany, Ore., was clinging to a seat cushion when Coast Guard crews found him more than 2 1/2 hours after the HC-130 sent out a distress call Friday evening.

The reserve plane had been flying a search and rescue training mission from its base in Portland, Ore., to San Diego.

Vogel said he was elated to hear the sound of helicopters flying overhead.

``It was very noisy,″ Vogel told The Oregonian from his bed Sunday. ``But it was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.″ He was in fair condition recuperating from a hairline fracture in his hip and a chipped ankle bone.

Autopsies and identification of two bodies recovered Saturday were expected today. Crews searching the area amid high winds, fog and rain all day Saturday and Sunday found few signs of life other than empty life rafts, life jackets and packs containing personal gear.

The Coast Guard also hoped to salvage a 40-foot section of the plane’s wing _ the largest piece of debris visible _ from the water’s surface today, said Petty Officer Lars Hollis.

The fuselage and engine were believed to be on the ocean bottom more than 4,200 feet deep, said Air Force Reserve Col. Gene Garton, vice wing commander of the 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, Ore.

It was not immediately known if the plane carried a ``black box,″ or flight recorder.

The C-130 cargo plane, of which the HC-130 that crashed was a variation, has been a very reliable aircraft, Garton said.

The last C-130 to crash was Aug. 17, when one transporting Secret Service gear for a vacation trip by President Clinton crashed shortly after taking off from Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming.

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