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Coast Guard suspends search for helicopter that crashed with 4 on board

Carrying workers off a Walter Oil & Gas platform, the craft went down in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Mississippi River southeast of New Orleans.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for four people after their helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 29, 2022.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for four people after their helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 29, 2022.U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard suspended its search for a helicopter that went down near New Orleans, officials said Friday, dimming hopes for rescuing four people who were on board.

A pilot and three oil workers were coming from a platform operated by Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas when the crash happened at about 8:40 a.m. CST on Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

"Once a case is suspended it basically means that we will stop searching until we find any new information that would actually help us with the search," Coast Guard Petty Officer Jose Hernandez told NBC News on Friday.

"Let's say somebody actually spots a body or lets us know something (new) that will help one of our assets."

The three workers are employed by Island Operating Company and were working on the Walter platform when they were picked up by a Rotorcraft Leasing Company helicopter, according to Walter Oil & Gas.

"The families of the passengers and the pilot have been notified of the incident," according to a Walter Oil & gas statement. "Walter extends our deepest condolences to the families impacted by this tragic event, and we are cooperating fully in the response efforts and investigation of this incident."

A rep for Rotorcraft Leasing Company could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Bell 407 helicopter crashed about 10 miles from the shipping channel Southwest Pass, at the mouth of the Mississippi River southeast of New Orleans, officials said. The NTSB is investigating.

No bodies were immediately found, but the Coast Guard on Thursday released images of debris — several cylindrical yellow objects bobbing in the water.

The Coast Guard sent an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a 45-foot Response Boat that searched 180 square miles for eight hours, officials said.

“It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Keefe said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends during this difficult time.”

The Coast Guard rescued three people two weeks ago after their helicopter went down while trying to land on another oil rig near New Orleans, officials said. That Dec. 15 crash was about 30 miles south of Terrebonne Bay.