A Navy Sea Hawk helicopter and Coast Guardsmen from the patrol boat Shearwater search for a crew member of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter that crashed in January. Divers and sailors received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for their role in the recovery of the helicopter. (Navy)
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Navy divers and sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals Feb. 6 for their role in the recovery and salvage of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter that crashed off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va., in January.
Adm. Bill Gortney, the head of Fleet Forces Command, presented 19 members of MDSU 2 at their Virginia Beach facility with the awards for salvaging 95 percent of the wreckage and recovering the body of pilot Lt. Sean Snyder, 29, after the Jan. 8 crash that claimed the lives of three of the five aircrew.
Pilot Lt. Wesley Van Dorn and Aviation Crewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class Brian Collins died of their injuries at a Norfolk hospital.
“Thanks for helping us find the ‘what happened’ on the helicopter, and from the family: ‘thanks for bringing him home,’ ” Gortney said.
Now, he added, “we can find out what caused it, and put in place mechanisms to prevent it from happening again.”
The Sea Dragon airframe is in use by two Norfolk-based squadrons — HM-14 and HM-15. This was the fourth Sea Dragon crash in less than two years; the previous three occurred in 2012. Following two HM-15 crashes, the unit’s commanding officer and command master chief were fired.
“Over the last two years, the Navy has invested significant resources, including money for training and equipment, to make sure that the service life for this aircraft continues to be viable,” Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic commander Capt. Todd Flannery said Jan. 11.
Flannery said that though this crash didn’t happen because of a takeoff mishap or because the helo was carrying too heavy a load, as happened in 2012, the investigation board would consider the previous incidents in its assessments.
Gortney also praised MDSU2 for their work in two other recent missions, recovering a downed Air Force F-16C Falcon off the coast of Virginia in August and searching for a MQ-9 Reaper in Lake Ontario in November.