Local News

Body found in search for Marine who fell during Osprey training flight

Posted May 19
Updated May 21

— The body of a Marine who fell from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft Monday evening during a training flight near White Lake was recovered Tuesday evening after an exhaustive search by more than 1,000 military and law enforcement personnel.

Military officials have not released the name of the Marine, but according to an Illinois newspaper, it was Steven Hancock, of Coal City. Hancock was a crew chief in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

"I'd like to extend my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of our Marine," said Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. "I also want to extend my thanks to the community for their tireless efforts throughout this search. Without your cooperation, we could not have brought closure to this phase of such an unfortunate incident."

Military service members and authorities from Bladen and Sampson counties slogged through marshy forests Tuesday in search of Hancock, whose body was found shortly before 6 p.m. on a blueberry farm in the northeastern part of Bladen County.

The accident occurred about 6:30 p.m. Monday some 45 miles west of Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, where the Osprey is based, on a return flight from Elizabethtown.

Marine Lt. Col. Christian Harshberger said Hancock, who was a crew chief with his unit, was accounted for when the Osprey left the airport in Elizabethtown, but he disappeared from the back of the aircraft sometime during the 35-minute flight.

Cargo doors are usually open throughout training flights, officials said.

"It was just some routine operation we do every day with hundreds of aircraft throughout eastern North Carolina," Marine spokesman First Sgt. Hector Alejandro said.

Crews searched for Hancock late Monday and returned at daybreak Tuesday.

Phoebe Campbell, a junior at North Carolina State University who recently returned home for the summer, said she was surprised to see a military command post across the street from her house.

"The roads have been blocked off. We can’t get (my sisters) to school or work," Campbell said. "The helicopters have been loud through the night."

Hundreds of Marines were bused in to assist with the ground search in the dense woods and swamps, and helicopters and Ospreys from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and search-and-rescue helicopters from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point were scanning the area from the air, Marine spokesman Michael Barton said.

"Our primary goal is to make sure we find this missing Marine," Alejandro said during the search. "We’re prepared to stay here as long as it takes."

The Osprey was flying at varying speeds and altitudes while returning to New River, Harshberger said, so investigators reviewed the flight data to help narrow the search area to 5 to 10 square miles.

Investigators also checked to see if cellphone towers in the area picked up a signal from Hancock's phone, Alejandro said.

"This is something that affects all of us. Anytime a Marine is missing, we’re worried," he said.

38 Comments

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  • dwr1964 May 21, 7:42 p.m.

    Rest In Peace my brother, Semper Fidelis

  • justcommonsense May 21, 3:51 p.m.

    This is such a joke! These guys stopped searching when it became too dark for the poor marines.... View More

    — Posted by btneast

    Unfortunately BTNEAST - some folks will take any and all opportunities to belittle military or LEO. They think that these folks are machines with super human powers. And yep, I'm sure this poster has no clue about search and rescue, terrain, techno limitations. He/she saw all these miracles and superhuman acts in a movie so it must be true. ;-)

  • "Screen Name-8/20" May 21, 3:29 p.m.

    Sorry for the death, but they should not have shut down roads.

    — Posted by lazyrebel

    -

    Are you familiar with the area and all that the search required then?

  • "Screen Name-8/20" May 21, 3:28 p.m.

    "Cargo doors are usually open throughout training flights, officials said."

    Ya know, even a non-military mother would have seen the danger in that. Shut those doors for crying out loud, any time any flight equipment is OFF the ground. smh

    Praying for the loved ones and comrades of this Marine.

    RIP Marine, RIP and thanks for your service.

    We pray for your loved ones and comrades in arms.

    And after all these years out of that uniform (since 1972), my heart still aches whenever one of you has lost their lives.

    SEMPER FI, brave warrior, SEMPER FI!!!

  • lazyrebel May 21, 2:11 p.m.

    Sorry for the death, but they should not have shut down roads.

  • btneast May 21, 12:39 p.m.

    This is such a joke! These guys stopped searching when it became too dark for the poor marines. Nobody tirelessly searched for this guy

    Oh wow, we didn't realize that you were a search and rescue expert, and that you are familiar with the terrain where they were searching. If only they had called you......the fact is , in that particular area, it would be very easy to miss someone 2 ft away in the dark. Compound that with the fact the person you are looking for is wearing camo, making it even harder to see. You could sweep an area and miss him, but not go back because you have already searched that particular area. Do you really think the Marines are that stupid?

  • mchljam2 May 21, 12:33 p.m.

    Prayers for this Marine and his family, friends, and loved ones. Also for the people making un feeling comments and judgments. This is neither the time or place!! Shame on you!

  • Paladin2 May 21, 11:51 a.m.

    nobodyknow420... This was not a joke! If you had read the article you would have realized that the search area was huge and you only want to have to search it once if possible. More than 1,000 military and LEOs were diligently searching for the soldier.

  • Itsmyopinion67 May 21, 10:40 a.m.

    I still don't understand how someone falls out of an Osprey?? Condolences to the family.

  • nobodyknow420 May 21, 9:43 a.m.

    This is such a joke! These guys stopped searching when it became too dark for the poor marines. Nobody tirelessly searched for this guy, which is a clear indication of how you are treated once you become unable to perform in the military.

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