- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

UPDATED:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy were still hoping Friday to find survivors of a collision between a Coast Guard plane carrying two people and a Marine Corps helicopter carrying seven off the Southern California coast.

The crash was reported at 7:10 p.m. Thursday, about 50 miles off the San Diego County coast and 15 miles east of San Clemente Island, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Allyson Conroy said.

A pilot reported seeing a fireball near where the aircraft collided, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said, and the Coast Guard informed the FAA that debris from a C-130 plane had been spotted. Seven people were on board the plane, and two people were aboard the helicopter, he said.

Cpl Michael Stevens, a spokesman for the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, said the AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter was on a training mission when it went down. The Cobra and its crew are part of Marine Aircraft Group 39, based at Camp Pendleton, and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is headquartered at Miramar, Stevens said.



The missing Coast Guard plane and its crew are from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta Disco. Crews from the Sacramento Coast Guard station fly search-and-rescue, law enforcement and logistics missions, Disco said.

The Coast Guard planned to search through the night, having sent three cutters and diverting an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the area to search for survivors. The Navy, meanwhile, sent four vessels and multiple helicopters.

“The search conditions are ideal for tonight,” Lt. Josh Nelson of the Coast Guard told XETV in San Diego. “We’ve got a clear sky, the winds are calm, the seas are calm, and we have a lot of assets out there.”

Earlier this week, it was an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter that collided with a UH-1 helicopter over southern Afghanistan, killing four American troops and wounding two more, a Marine spokesman said.

San Clemente Island is the southernmost of the eight Channel Islands located 78 miles (126 kilometers) west of San Diego. The Navy has owned and trained at San Clemente Island since 1934, according to the island’s Web site. Naval Air Station, North Island is responsible for the island’s administration.

Meanwhile, stormy weather forced the Coast Guard to suspend its search for two missing Navy pilots and their plane along the central Texas coast.

Petty Officer 1st Class Nayo Gallegos said crews would likely resume the search Friday morning after stopping around 8 p.m. Thursday because of limited visibility.

Air Station Corpus Christi lost contact with the Navy T-34 training plane Wednesday afternoon. The single-engine plane’s last known location was near San Jose Island, east of Rockport and 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) off shore in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Coast Guard spokesman told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that crews have made nearly 20 flights and covered more than 3,900 square miles (10,000 square kilometers).

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