All Six Crew Members Recovered From Helicopter Crash
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ As search teams recovered the last of six bodies from a wrecked Coast Guard helicopter, officials said it may be months before they know why the aircraft crashed on a remote island during an emergency medical mission.
The twin-engine HH-3F Sikorsky slammed into a hillside late Sunday on Ugak Island, in the Gulf of Alaska, then slid down the steep, rocky slope, Coast Guard spokesman Glenn Rosenholm said Monday.
Five crew members and a Coast Guard physician were aboard, en route from the Kodiak Coast Guard air station to the small village of Akhiok on Kodiak Island’s southwestern tip.
The bodies were recovered Monday after two rescue teams were airlifted onto the island. One team was made up of Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers volunteers experienced in mountain climbing, Rosenholm said.
The Coast Guard buoy tender Ironwood, out of Kodiak, arrived near the search area early Monday, but could not lower its small boat to get a party ashore because of rough seas, Rosenholm said.
An investigation team is being assembled from Coast Guard stations around the country to determine why the craft crashed, Rosenholm said. The Coast Guard reported no wind or storms Sunday night. HH-3F helicopters have been known to fly in crosswinds of 80 knots.
Rosenholm identified the crew as the aircraft commander, Lt. Michael C. Dollahite, 38, of El Paso, Texas; copilot Lt. Robert L. Carson Jr., 38, of Bostic, N.C.; Aviation Survivalman 2nd Class Kevin M. McKracken, 25, of Springfield, Ore.; Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class William Gregory Kemp, 27, of Docena, Ala.; U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. David M. Rockmore, 52, of Cambridge, Penn.; and Coast Guard Health Service Technician 3rd Class Ralph D. King, 24, of Arden, N.C.
A private jet ambulance was dispatched to Akhiok to help the 21-year-old man with a head injury.