Local News

Crews Work To Raise Wreckage Of Marine Copter

Posted July 11, 2001

— Investigators remain at the site of a helicopter crash that killed three Marines and injured two others when their chopper went down in the New River near Camp Lejeune.

Sgt. Richard C. Beaty, 30, a crew chief instructor from Cleavland, Tenn., 26-year-old Sgt. Bryon E. Lane, a crew chief from Windsor, Vt. and 20-year-old LCpl. Sean M. Hughes, a crew chief from Strafford, N.H. died in the crash late Monday.

The pilot, 34-year-old Major Charles A. Rust of Delaware, Pa., is being treated at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. The co-pilot, 1st Lt. Christopher Knarr, 29, of Clearfield, Pa., was taken to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville. Both men are listed in stable condition.

Military officials removed the bodies of the victims around dawn Tuesday. They say they want to get the wreckage out of the water quickly because of the fuel leaking into the river.

The helicopter was assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. A base spokesman says the crew was practicing night landings at around 11 p.m. when the incident occurred.

The exercises required the helicopter to touch down on the simulated deck of an amphibious ship on land near the river. The metal deck is about the size of a football field with lights and painted to look like a ship deck. Marine officials describe the maneuver as a fairly typical exercise.

The tail of the helicopter was visible in the shallow river water about 500 yards offshore near the Sneads Ferry base gate at N.C. 172.

Marine Corps officials said there was no distress call before the transport helicopter went down about 11 p.m. Monday.

The CH-46 is a medium-sized helicopter used mainly for troop transport. The helicopter operates in all-weather, day and night transporting combat troops, supplies, and equipment. Additional tasks include over-water search and rescue and evacuation of casualties from the field.

The same model helicopter crashed in 1999 near San Diego, killing seven Marines.

There was also another accident at Camp Lejune five years ago. The CH-46 was involved in a collision at the Marine base in 1996. The two Marine helicopters collided, killing fourteen people.

The model was scheduled to be replaced by the VS-22 Osprey, but the Osprey has had its own problems and the changeover was delayed.

The Pentagon's new chief weapons buyer recently gave the go-ahead to continue buying Ospreys, but there is no word yet on when they will be cleared to fly.

The investigation into the cause of the crash continues. Memorial service plans for the deceased victims are expected to be announced later this week.

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