Squadron Operations Officer among Marines Missing in CH-53 Crash

US Marines board two CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters during training operations last month in California. All 12 Marines missing after the Jan. 14 collision of two Sea Stallions have been identified. (Marine Corps/Briauna Birl)
US Marines board two CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters during training operations last month in California. All 12 Marines missing after the Jan. 14 collision of two Sea Stallions have been identified. (Marine Corps/Briauna Birl)

The squadron operations officer for the unit flying two CH-53E Super Stallions that apparently collided this week off the north shore of Oahu is among the 12 Marines missing in the aftermath of the crash. The Marine Corps released the names and hometowns of the Marines involved in the crash late Saturday night, some two days after the aircraft went down. Search-and-rescue efforts led by the Coast Guard’s 14th district are still ongoing, officials said, and the Marines are considered missing. Among the missing is Capt. Kevin Roche, who was the operations officer for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 during the unit’s 2015 deployment to Darwin, Australia, as part of a rotational force that includes air and ground elements, according to Marine Corps news reports. Roche, 30, is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. It’s not clear if Roche was in the air as a pilot or in another capacity. According to III Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman Capt. Timothy Irish, the Marines involved in the crash included two four-man crews for the CH-53s and several trainer-instructors who were assisting with the routine training mission. Three other officers and eight enlisted Marines are also among the missing. They were identified as: --Maj. Shawn M. Campbell, 41, of College Station, Texas; --Capt. Brian T. Kennedy, 31, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; --Capt. Steven R. Torbert, 29, of Florence, Alabama; --Sgt. Dillon J. Semolina, 24, of Chaska, Minnesota; --Sgt. Adam C. Schoeller, 25, of Gardners, Pennsylvania; --Sgt. Jeffrey A. Sempler, 22, of Woodruff, South Carolina; --Sgt. William J. Turner, 25, of Florala, Alabama; --Cpl. Matthew R. Drown, 23, of Spring, Texas; --Cpl. Thomas J. Jardas, 22, of Fort Myers, Florida; --Cpl. Christopher J. Orlando, 23, of Hingham, Massachusetts; and --Lance Cpl. Ty L. Hart, 21, of Aumsville, Oregon. The Marine Corps has yet to release any further details about the Marines’ military careers and families. The two helicopters were reported missing at 11:38p.m. local time Thursday. Coast Guard officials said civilians reported seeing a fireball and a flare, alerting responders to a possible incident. Since then, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and local civilian rescue assets have been searching a long debris field located off Oahu’s Waimea Bay. Local Hawaii media reported that an empty life raft had been found in the debris field. Coast Guard officials said the wreckage was in keeping with a military aircraft, but have not announced anything else recovered from the area. The search has been complicated by choppy conditions, with high winds up to 23 miles per hour Friday, 16-foot wave swells, and surf reaching 40 feet high. The identities of the missing Marines come 24 hours after the families of the troops were notified as to their status, in keeping with Marine Corps policy. III MEF officials said they planned to hold a press conference at 5 p.m. Eastern time Sunday to discuss the ongoing search. --Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@monster.com.

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