NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Three crew members were rescued Tuesday from a downed Navy helicopter near the James River Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard confirms.
The Navy said in a news release Tuesday that the helicopter crashed during a routine training mission.
The Coast Guard says a Good Samaritan vessel rescued the three people. The crew members were then transferred to a Newport News Police Marine Unit, which was first on scene, according to officials.
WAVY cameras were there as the three crew members walked off of a Newport News Fire boat that brought them to shore. They were taken to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth for evaluation.
Newport News Fire Battalion Chief Steve Pincus addressed the media in a noon news conference on Tuesday following the incident.
“We are grateful that no one was injured,” Pincus said. “It is an especially proud moment when we can do in there and rescue people, bring them to shore relatively unharmed.”
The helicopter, an MH-60 Seahawk, is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two (HSC-2) — also called the Fleet Angels. It’s the Navy’s east coast fleet replacement squadron, according to its website, and is based at Naval Station Norfolk.
On deployment, the MH-60 Seahawk would carry out anti-surface warfare, surveillance, or communication relay. However, it is most known for its role in combat search and rescue missions, medical evacuations and humanitarian aid drops. All Navy MH-60s carry a hoist drop, which helps them on those missions.
WAVY.com has learned the squadron is comprised of instructors who train pilot and crew trainees. This squadron does not deploy, but helps get new crewmen and new pilots ready to attach to a deployable command.
Due to the training nature of the helo, it would not be uncommon for a student pilot, a student crew member, or both to be on board during a training flight. An instructor would likely also be on board. The Navy has not commented on the roles of the three men on board the helicopter that crashed Tuesday.
Boater David Hayslett witnessed the helicopter go down. Hayslett told 10 On Your Side’s Joe Fisher that the helicopter was hovering low before it crashed.
“I don’t know what exactly happened, and the tail hit the top of the beacon and that’s when the tail broke off,” Hayslett said. “Then the chopper laid sideways, the blades hit the water and the blades went everywhere.”
Fishermen in the area tell 10 On Your Side it’s common to see Navy aircraft training very low to the surface over the James River.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Coast Guard and Newport News Fire Department all responded to the scene Tuesday, according to emergency dispatchers. The incident was reported at 11:12 a.m.
The Coast Guard dispatched a helo crew for an overflight of the scene. A small boat crew was sent from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth to assess the situation.
Naval Air Forces Atlantic spokesman Mike Maus tells 10 On Your Side there is no information on when the helicopter will be recovered.
Officials tell us a mishap investigation is being formed to determine what caused the crash. It could be months before a determination is made.
10 On Your Side will continue to monitor updates and will bring them to you on air and online.