The Navy has identified the helicopter crewman killed last week in a fuel tank accident at Naval Air Station North Island in California.
Naval Helicopter Aircrewman 1st Class Jonathan Richard Clement was declared dead on July 31 at the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, a day after an auxiliary fuel tank detached from an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter and struck him and a fellow petty officer.
The other sailor was treated and released from the hospital after suffering what officials at Naval Air Forces described as “minor injuries.”
Both sailors were assigned to the “Firehawks” of North Island-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85.
The Naval Safety Center reported the mishap on the morning of Aug. 6, indicating only that the helicopter crew had been conducting “hot seat” training at the sprawling air base when the accident occurred.
It’s not characterized as an air incident but rather a ground accident, and the cause remains under investigation.
“It was an auxiliary tank and it had fuel in it and might have weighed in excess of 1,500 lbs,” said Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders.
Clement, 31, was rushed to the Hillcrest emergency room because it was the nearest Level I trauma center to North Island and his family was flown to San Diego to be by his side, Flanders added.
Flanders said that no aircraft had been grounded in the wake of the tragedy, which occurred around 6:30 p.m. on July 30.
Hot pit, hot seat training usually is conducted so that crews can practice switching out from an aircraft without shutting down the engines. Crews will quickly refuel, inspect the aircraft, replace the pilots or other personnel and get it back in the sky as quickly as possible.
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An 11-year Navy veteran originally from Florida, Clement reported to HSC-85 on Oct. 16, 2016.
He previously served with the “Merlins” of San Diego-based Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 and the “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 in Japan.
Both an Enlisted Naval Aircrew Warfare and Aviation Warfare Specialist, Clement’s personal decorations included four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.