Helicopter salvage expected to begin by afternoon

A small memorial stands in the sand along Highway 98 in Navarre, Fla., Thursday, March 12, 2015. Divers have found the military helicopter that crashed in dense fog Tuesday night during a Florida training mission, killing seven elite Marines and four experienced soldiers. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Jennie McKeon)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The salvage of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed into the waters off Florida in dense fog, killing 11 Marines and soldiers on board, could begin Friday afternoon, the military said.

Four Louisiana National Guard soldiers and seven Marines were killed when the aircraft slammed into the water during a routine training mission early Tuesday.

The Air Force said in a news release that a salvage barge was expected to arrive at the crash site by early Friday afternoon. The work to haul the shattered helicopter core from about 25 feet of water could take up to eight hours.

A Coast Guard dive team was expected to help with the operation.

Officials said the salvage and recovery would end if weather conditions deteriorated. Sporadic rain showers covered the crash site on Friday, but the heavy fog lifted after hampering recovery operations since Tuesday.

The cause of the crash — described as “high impact” by Eglin Fire Chief Mark Giuliano — is being probed by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center out of Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Jenna Kemp’s husband, Kerry Kemp, was among the Marines killed. He was a “proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father,” with a child about to turn 1, said her sister, Lora Waraksa of Port Washington, Wisconsin.

Another victim was Marcus Bawol, 27, from Warren, Michigan, north of Detroit. His sister, Brandy Peek, said military officials told them his remains had been identified. Bawol “loved everything about the military,” Peek said.

The National Guard soldiers, from Hammond, Louisiana, each did two tours in Iraq and joined in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill. Their passengers were “seasoned combat veterans” with the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, said Capt. Barry Morris, a command spokesman at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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