ASAN, Guam -- Sailors from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 helped rescue four people whose plane went missing on a flight from Tinian to Saipan of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Oct. 6.
HSC-25's five-person helicopter crew Rescue 10 successfully found the crashed Piper single-engine aircraft in the jungles of Tinian after a report was sent to USCG Sector Guam that the plane was overdue on its morning flight. The Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigations and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating this crash.
"The biggest challenge facing our crew was that we had no idea really where the plane went down," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class (NAC/AW) George Parsons, HSC-25 crew chief during the SAR. "We were searching over water and over land."
Parsons said the command's first priority was to locate the aircraft, second to find the passengers and then to save their lives. Rescue 10 spent more than five hours searching for the plane before Parsons spotted aircraft wreckage and broken branches that were evidence of the crash.
The search crews transported four survivors to Saipan's Commonwealth Health Center after finding the victims. Due to terrain conditions, the crash site required HSC-25's helicopter support and other responders to hike through the jungle to reach the wreckage.
"We were very fortunate to spot a small airplane in such a thick jungle environment," said Lt. David Macey, HSC-25 pilot. "It is very rewarding to know that we were able to render assistance to the survivors, however it was humbling and unfortunate to not be able to save all of the personnel."
HSC-25 partnered with USCG Sector Guam, Andersen Air Force Base operations, fueling and tower control for this search and rescue, and also worked with CNMI agencies to locate the pilot and six passengers. USCG Cutter Assateague (WPB-1337), CNMI Department of Public Safety (DPS) Boating Safety, CNMI DPS Fire and Rescue and CNMI Port Authority Harbor Patrol all assisted during the incident.
Lt. Monica Mondloch, HSC-25 squadron duty officer during the SAR, said launching the SAR helicopter required the professional efforts of not only the flight crew, but also 15 people at HSC-25's facility on Guam.
"We would like to recognize the heroic contributions of our maintenance duty section, which spent over 14 hours at work Sunday to support this effort," she said.
Parsons credited the crew's years of dedicated training for allowing them to complete their mission.
"It is a good feeling at the end of the day when you know that the training we have received is not in vain," he said. "We are glad we were able to help these people and wish them the best recovery possible."
"HSC-25's aircrew efforts are extremely professional and responsive," said Capt. Casey White, commander of U.S Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Guam, which oversees search and rescue (SAR) missions on Guam, CNMI and the Federated States of Micronesia. "Their professionalism, expertise and innovation to work through the heavy foliage and rescue the crash victims was just an amazing demonstration of their skill and dedication. Their passion and commitment to the mission is praiseworthy."
Dubbed the "Island Knights," HSC-25's mission is to deploy helicopter detachments to conduct operations for the Navy and national defense. The command is the Navy's only forward-deployed MH-60S expeditionary squadron. They provide logistics, force protection and disaster response, as well as 24-hour search and rescue and medical evacuation for Guam and the CNMI.