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Coast Guard identifies 9 missing in air crash

A flotilla of rescue vessels continued its search Saturday for nine people feared dead at sea following an air collision between a Coast Guard aircraft and a Marine Corps helicopter.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Coast Guard identified nine people feared dead at sea following an air collision between a Coast Guard aircraft and a Marine Corps helicopter.

Searchers have found no survivors and no bodies in a debris field from the Thursday evening crash. They were still considering the mission search and rescue Saturday morning.

All seven crew members of a Coast Guard C-130 airplane are stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Sacramento, Calif. The aircraft commander, 35-year-old Lt. Cmdr. Che Barnes, is from Capay, Calif. His co-pilot, 28-year-old Lt. Adam Bryant, is from Crewe, Va.

The missing crew members from the two-person Marine helicopter are 35-year-old Maj. Samuel Leigh of Kennebec, Maine, and 26-year-old 1st Lt. Thomas Claiborne, of Douglas, Colo.

Six Coast Guard cutters, three Navy ships and multiple helicopters searched the ocean off Southern California. Rescuers had found several pieces of debris from both aircraft but there was no sign of the victims.

Thursday's crash involved a Coast Guard C-130 with a seven-member crew and a Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra with two aboard as it flew in formation near the Navy's San Clemente Island, a site with training ranges for amphibious, air, surface and undersea warfare.

The collision occurred as the Coast Guard airplane was itself carrying out a search for a missing boatman.

Unclear how collision occurred
Officials were collecting evidence and reviewing recordings of transmissions by the aircraft to try to determine how the collision occurred.

The accident happened at 7:10 p.m. in airspace uncontrolled by the FAA and inside a so-called military warning area, which is at times open to civilian aircraft and at times closed for military use, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. He did not know the status of the airspace at the time.

Capt. Tom Farris, commander of the Coast Guard's San Diego sector, said it's not unusual to have a high volume of military traffic working in training areas and pilots in the area are responsible for seeing other aircraft around them under a so-called "see-and-avoid principle."

Minutes before the collision, the FAA told the C-130 pilot to begin communicating with military controllers at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego Bay, but it was not known if the pilot did so, Gregor said.

The search covered 644 square miles of ocean but rescuers were concentrating on a debris field 50 miles off the San Diego coast.

Officials did not immediately release names of the crew members.

Boater missing
The Sacramento-based C-130 crew was looking for 50-year-old David Jines, who was reported missing after leaving Avalon Harbor on Santa Catalina Island in a 12-foot motorized skiff to reach a friend in high winds Tuesday, authorities said.

The four-engine plane was conducting its search from an altitude of 900 to 1,000 feet and visibility was 15 miles.

Jines' friend, Linda Jones, told The Associated Press that Jines boarded her disabled yacht and helped her maneuver to an area where they thought they had made anchor. After helping her, he set off to return to his sailboat, which was anchored at the Avalon harbor.

She reported Jines missing the next day when she returned to the harbor and couldn't find him.

"I didn't know Dave was in any kind of peril," she said.