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News of Helicopter Crash Hits Hard at Hawaii Base With PM-Marine Crash

May 31, 1989

HONOLULU (AP) _ Fellow Marines and relatives waited anxiously for news of the 14 men missing after a helicopter crash during a training mission off Okinawa.

″There is a great somberness and pain with reports of the tragedy or possible tragedy. We are fearful and concerned,″ said Navy Capt. Herbert Bergsma, chaplin at Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.

A Kaneohe-based CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter with 22 Marines crashed into the sea Tuesday night after taking off from the USS Denver off Okinawa, Japan. Eight Marines were rescued, including four who were injured. A search was continuing for the missing, whose names have not been released.

A special hotline number was set up for Marine families to call, but they are told only if their relative was not involved, officials said. The families of the missing were being notified individually.

Nancy O’Donnell, ombudsman for the 3rd Marine Regiment, was fielding telephone calls from servicemen’s wives.

″I hear anxiety in their voices. Some are in tears. They want to know right now″ if their husband is among the missing, said Mrs. O’Donnell, whose husband, Sgt. Kevin O’Donnell, is in Okinawa but was not involved in the accident.

The helicopter was carrying a crew of four assigned to Kaneohe’s Aircraft Group 24, and 18 passengers from the 3rd Marine Regiment. The base is located 10 miles from Honolulu on Oahu island.

The two units were on a six-month deployment to the western Pacific for training.

″It affected two of our major subordinate commands ... so we’re very concerned,″ said Maj. Kerry K. Gershanek, the base public affairs officer.

While the search was the priority at the scene of the accident, ″here our first priority is to make sure our families are taken care of,″ Gershanek said.

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