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US Navy finds helicopter wreckage and remains of five sailors six weeks after crash off San Diego


Helicopter wreckage and the bodies of five Navy sailors have been recovered six weeks after the aircraft crashed off the coast of San Diego on August 31. 

The sailors were conducting routine flight operations from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln when their MH-60S helicopter crashed.

The Navy later confirmed their identities to be Lieutenant Bradley Foster, 29, from Oakhurst, California; Lieutenant Paul Fridley, 28, from Annadale, Virginia; Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James Buriak, 31, from Salem, Virginia; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Maryland; and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey Tucker, 21, from St. Louis, Missouri

The Navy formally announced their deaths last month after a three-day search and rescue mission failed to find the wreckage.

The wreckage of the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter was finally recovered on Friday by salvage divers from the multi-purpose service vessel HOS Bayou.

The helicopter was found 5300 feet, or roughly one mile, below sea level, around 60 miles southwest of San Diego on October 8.

The Navy withheld the discovery from the public until today in order to tell the sailors’ families.

Bailey J. Tucker, 21, (above) were among those who died on Seahawk helicopter on August 31

Pilot Lieutenant Paul R. Fridley, 28, (left) and Bailey J. Tucker, 21, (right) were among those who died on Seahawk helicopter on August 31

Lieutenant Bradley A. Foster, 29, (above) was the second pilot on the flight

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31 (above) died during the crash

The second pilot Lieutenant Bradley A. Foster, 29, (left) and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31 (right) died during the crash. They were all a part of the ‘Eightballers’ of the HSC-8 team 

Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, was on the flight while it crashed

Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, was on the flight while it crashed

The Navy used deep-submersible drones with sonar and cameras to pinpoint the general location of the wreckage in September, before sending out the salvage team.

But recovery efforts were delayed because heavier salvage equipment and more personnel were needed.

HOS Bayou – an offshore tug that supports deep-water services – was deployed to help recover the helicopter and the remains onboard.  

The Bayou arrived at back at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego on Saturday with the bodies on October 10, according to the US Navy Institute.

The remains were then transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification.

The Navy is still investigating the cause of the deadly crash.

The helicopter crashed after experiencing ‘side-to-side vibrations’ while landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln’s flight deck at 4.30pm on August 31, during routine flight operations, according to CBS 8

The helicopter’s rotor struck the flight deck and crashed over the side of the ship. 

One of the six crew members survived and was reported to be in stable conditions at the time of the crash, but remains unnamed. 

Five Abraham Lincoln crew members were also injured, the Navy reported.

The wreckage was found roughly 60 miles southwest of San Diego and was located 5300 feet, or one mile, under the sea level

The wreckage was found roughly 60 miles southwest of San Diego and was located 5300 feet, or one mile, under the sea level 

They were landing an MH-60S, similar to this, when the helicopter experienced 'side-to-side vibration' before the rotor hit the flight deck, causing the it fall off the USS Abraham Lincoln

They were landing an MH-60S, similar to this, when the helicopter experienced ‘side-to-side vibration’ before the rotor hit the flight deck, causing the it fall off the USS Abraham Lincoln

Two were taken back to California for hospital treatment, with the other three were treated on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

The crash caused Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Eight (HSC-8) to halt all flights for seven days to evaluate its aircrafts and personnel immediately following the crash. 

‘The safety of our sailors is always a top priority and the US Navy consistently integrates safety into all levels of operations and training,’ Commander Zachary Harrell said.  

The helicopter was performing routine flight operation on the USS Abraham Lincoln (pictured) when it crashed on August 31. The helicopter and the bodies were found on October 8 by the US Navy and Coast Guard

The helicopter was performing routine flight operation on the USS Abraham Lincoln (pictured) when it crashed on August 31. The helicopter and the bodies were found on October 8 by the US Navy and Coast Guard

This is the second helicopter recovery performed by the Navy this year. 

In March, the Navy recovered another MH-60S Seahawk that sunk off the coast of Okinawa in 2020 at a depth of 19,075. 

The MH-60S helicopter, which is used for anti-surface warfare, combat support, and humanitarian efforts, and was first deployed in 2002.

It has a length of nearly 65 feet with a height of 17 feet, and a weight of 14,430 pounds while empty, and 23,500 pounds max gross.  

The USS Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, is among the largest warships in the world.  



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