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Copters Will Not be Grounded Because of Crash

October 16, 1985

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ The crash of a CH-46D helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean that killed 15 Marines was an ″isolated incident″ and will not result in the grounding of the craft, a spokesman said Wednesday.

″They’re not falling out of the sky. It’s been a very reliable aircraft,″ said Maj. Don Kappel from Marine headquarters in Washington.

Investigators went to the USS Guadalcanal, from which the helicopter took off, and were ″looking into all the contributing factors that may have caused the crash,″ said Gunnery Sgt. John Simmons at Camp Lejeune. ″The structure of the helicopter, if anything fell off, the pilot’s condition, the weight ... all these things they are looking at.″

The dead - 14 Marines and a Navy chaplain - were pulled from the ocean Tuesday after the early-morning crash about a mile off New River Inlet near the Marine Corps’ Onslow Beach, Simmons said.

Four survivors were rescued by a helicopter that was in the air when the crash occurred in 50 feet of water.

Three survivors were back on active duty Wednesday aboard the Guadalcanal, Simmons said. Capt. Kevin Spillers, the chopper’s co-pilot and the fourth survivor, was scheduled to testify before the Marine’s Aircraft Mishap Board inquiry, but Simmons said he didn’t know when that would be.

A memorial service aboard the Guadalcanal was scheduled Wednesday, Simmons said.

The CH-46D, the Marines’ principal assault helicopter, was participating in an exercise with the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit, he said. The Navy also uses the CH-46 to carry cargo and passengers between ships and shore.

Wreckage from the ″Sea Knight″ will be removed from the ocean and taken to New River Air Station or Cherry Point Marine Air Station for examination ″with a fine-toothed comb,″ Simmons said.

Simmons said 12 of the victims were passengers and three were crew members. The bodies were taken to the base hospital at Camp Lejeune. Victims and survivors were based at Camp Lejeune and its New River Air Station.

The accident occurred not far from the Marine Corps’ Onslow Beach, just east of Camps Geiger and Lejeune, where Marines practice beach landings, but the Marines said the ship’s exact location wasn’t known.

The Guadalcanal carries a crew of 650 people and up to 2,000 troops, Simmons said.

Five months ago, a CH-53D ″Super Sea Stallion″ helicopter crashed off southern Japan; 17 Marines were killed. Eighteen Marines and 11 South Korean Marines were killed when another Sea Stallion crashed into a South Korean mountain in March 1984.

A CH-53 Super Sea Stallion helicopter crashed 11 months ago at Camp Lejeune, killing six servicemen and injuring 11 others. In 1967, 22 Marines were killed in the collision of two helicopters at New River Air Station.

The CH-53, the Marines’ newest and largest helicopter, was introduced in 1982.

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