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Marine Helicopter Crashes Into Ocean; Three Feared Dead

May 12, 1988

HONOLULU (AP) _ A search was continuing today for three Marines missing and feared dead after their helicopter crashed into the Pacific Ocean during a flight to check maintenance work on its rotor blades, officials said.

The CH-46 Sea Knight from Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station crashed Wednesday into water about 30 feet deep a mile off the island of Oahu, said Chief Warrant Officer Eric R. Carlson, a Marine spokesman.

Three helicopters searched unsuccessfully for the crew until sunset, with the search continuing at night with a Coast Guard cutter. An air search was scheduled to resume again at dawn, he said.

Marine divers located wreckage on the sea bed, but were unable to find the helicopter’s crew, Carlson said.

Carlson said repair crews had removed the helicopter’s rotor blades and reinstalled them during routine maintenance. He said the crew had taken the chopper out for a test flight to make sure the blades were in balance.

″It started falling and I saw something fall off of it - maybe it was the tail part that fell,″ said Carolyn Kam, who saw the crash through a window.

Kam, a newscaster at radio station KRTR, said the craft was smoking as it fell to the water.

The helicopter was attached to the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, one of five squadrons based at Kaneohe.

The CH-46 has been out of production since 1971, after orders declined with the end of the Vietnam War, said Robert Torgerson, spokesman for Boeing Helicopters in Philadelphia.

It has been used by the Marines since the early 1960s as a troop transport aircraft, and the Navy has also used it to airlift supplies, Torgerson said.

Since discontinuing production, Boeing has made kits to maintain the reliability of the helicopter and extend its life into the 1990s, he said.

Torgerson said there has been no history of mechanical problems with the CH-46, although ″all aircraft that operate for that long have had some incidents.″

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