HALEIWA, Hawaii — The ongoing search for 12 Marines who are missing after two helicopters crashed off Hawaii entered the third day with no plans Sunday morning to call off or suspend the massive effort, the Coast Guard said.
While high surf complicated the mission for rescuers on the water, a green laser off Haleiwa Beach Park on Saturday night struck a Coast Guard plane, forcing crew members to alter search patterns.
“It’s a very, very dangerous thing,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Tara Molle said of the laser, adding that it can be life-threatening for crews flying at night.
The crew of the HC-130 plane wasn’t exposed and didn’t have to land, but they changed their search pattern to avoid being hit again.
The Coast Guard reminded the public that targeting a laser at an aircraft is illegal and could result in fine of $11,000 per violation.
Rescuers have been searching round-the-clock since the Coast Guard was notified late Thursday of the crash by a civilian who saw the aircraft flying and then disappear and a fireball.
The Marines were alerted when the CH-53E helicopters carrying six crew members each failed to return to their base at Kaneohe Bay following a nighttime training mission. Hours later, a Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted debris 2 1/2 miles off of Oahu.
The transport helicopters were part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Known as Super Stallions, they are the U.S. military’s largest helicopter, capable of carrying a light armored vehicle, 16 tons of cargo or a team of combat-equipped Marines, according to a Marine Corps website.
The Coast Guard initially reported that the choppers had collided, but Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said Friday that he did not know if the accident was a collision.
A high surf warning for Oahu’s north and west shores was extended until noon Sunday. Waves of up to 30 feet were expected to subside to advisory levels Sunday afternoon.
The crash was off the north shore, but the search area was expanded to include waters off Oahu’s west coast on Saturday.
Rescuers will continue to search “as long as there’s probable cause that they have something to find,” Molle said. As of Sunday morning, there were no plans to call off or suspend the search, she said.
The U.S. Marines Corps released the names of the 12 missing crew members late Saturday. Though based in Hawaii, the Marines were from various states.
Some family members were holding out hope that survivors could be found, while asking for privacy as they waited for updates.
“My husband and I want everyone to know that this is not about us,” Donna McGrew, mother of Maj. Shawn Campbell of College Station, Texas, said in a statement. “This is about the families that are suffering, and about all the sacrifices that our military members and their families make on a daily basis.”
On Saturday evening, the U.S. Marine Corps released the names of the missing crew members. They are:
— Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas.
— Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia.
— Capt. Kevin T. Roche, 30, St. Louis.
— Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama.
— Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24,Chaska, Minnesota.
— Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania.
— Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina.
— Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama.
— Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, Spring, Texas.
— Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida.
— Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts.
— Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon.