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4 Crewmen Lost as Navy Copter Crashes at Sea

August 17, 1991|PEGGY Y. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four Navy airmen from San Diego are missing and presumed dead after their helicopter crashed while resupplying ships in the Pacific Ocean near Wake Island, the Navy announced Friday.

The crewmen of the ill-fated CH-46 Sea Knight were identified as Lt. Eric W. Allison, 26, of Coronado; Lt. (j.g.) Kenneth D. Pickens, 24, of Clairemont; Airman William A. Jackson, 20, of San Diego, and Petty Officer 1st Class Johnny L. Caulder Jr., 28, of Spring Valley.

The Sea Knight, operating from the fast combat support ship Camden, crashed Wednesday; search efforts were abandoned about 24 hours later, said Lt. Ken Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The cause of the accident, which occurred about 100 miles east of Wake Island, is under investigation, Ross said. Investigators will look at recorded radio transmissions from the helicopter and interview ship crewmen who witnessed the crash.

Two ships were close by when the aircraft dropped into the water, he said. Two helicopters were immediately launched for an air search, and the ships in the area launched whaleboats to assist in the search.

The missing airmen were members of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 11 at North Island Naval Air Station, said Fred Wilson, a spokesman for the air station.

The Camden was deployed to resupply the aircraft carrier Nimitz and its support ships, which were returning to the U.S. from duty in the Persian Gulf. The carrier battle group reached the gulf region after Operation Desert Storm and was not a participant in the war, Wilson added.

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