A Navy helicopter that crashed into the Pacific Ocean last week, killing five sailors, touched down aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and “experienced side-to-side vibrations” that caused the aircraft’s main rotor to strike the deck before the aircraft fell off the side of the ship, according to the Naval Safety Center.
The MH-60S Sea Hawk crashed at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday as Abraham Lincoln steamed about 60 nautical miles off San Diego.
The Navy and Coast Guard spent several days searching for the lost sailors, but the search was called off Saturday.
Those who died in the crash are Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey Tucker, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah Burns, Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class James Buriak, Lt. Paul Fridley and Lt. Bradley Foster.
A sixth crewmember was rescued Tuesday night.
Five sailors on the carrier’s deck at the time of the mishap were injured, two of whom required evacuation from the ship, officials said.
U.S. 3rd Fleet confirmed the sequence of events laid out by the Safety Center but declined further comment Tuesday, citing the ongoing investigation.
The helicopter was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8.
The HSC-8 Officers Spouses Club has set up a fundraising page to help the families of the fallen. Go here to donate.
Side-to-side vibration in a helicopter feels like two people pushing back and forth on each side of the aircraft, according to Michael Canders, a retired military rescue pilot who flew helicopters for the Navy and later the Air Force.
Canders declined to speculate on what might have caused the crash but told Navy Times that side-to-side vibrations can occur if rotor blades are out of balance.
“All of that has to be carefully balanced to make sure you don’t have these sorts of excessive vibrations,” said Canders, now director of the Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College in New York.
After those rotor blades struck the deck and the helicopter fell off the ship’s side, the helicopter would likely have sunk fast, but that would also depend on how it struck the water, he said.
“The ship has a rescue capability, small boats,” Canders said. “My experience is they are really spring-loaded for rescue.”
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the helicopter. It is a Sea Hawk.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.