Coast Guard Suspends Search for 4 Missing in Gulf Helicopter Crash

Debris from helicopter crash 10 miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana.
Debris from helicopter crash 10 miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, Dec. 29, 2022. The Coast Guard suspended its search for four passengers aboard a downed helicopter. (U.S. Cost Guard photo)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for four people on board a helicopter that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico while departing an oil platform Thursday morning.

Although the crash is not a closed case, crews will not resume the search unless they receive new information, said Petty Officer Jose Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard’s 8th District, which is headquartered in New Orleans. New information includes finding additional debris or a body.

“It is always a difficult decision to suspend a search,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Keefe, Coast Guard Sector New Orleans Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator.

The helicopter’s pilot and three oil workers went down around 8:40 a.m. CST Thursday about 10 miles (16 kilometers) offshore of Southwest Pass, a shipping channel at the mouth of the Mississippi River southeast of New Orleans. Helicopters routinely transport workers to and from oil platforms in the Gulf.

One of the missing workers is 36-year-old David Scarborough of Lizana, Mississippi, according to his wife, Lacy Scarborough. She told the Sun Herald newspaper that they are expecting a baby, and that her husband recently got a job promotion.

Lacy Scarborough told WDSU-TV that he was supposed to return home to celebrate a late Christmas with his family. She said the last message he sent to her said the helicopter was taking off and that he would be home soon.

“I’m pretty much lost right now," Lacy Scarborough said. "Not knowing where he is, or if he is still out there, or if he’s still under the water. Is he still in the helicopter? Where is he? It’s just the unknown, the uncertainty of it all.”

It would be the family's second tragedy this year. The Scarboroughs lost their 2-year-old son, Sawyer, when the boy drowned last March.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if David’s not coming home, he is absolutely in heaven with our Sawyer,” Lacy Scarborough said.

Weather didn’t appear to be a factor in the crash, Hernandez said, as there were no reports of storms in the area Thursday. The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash. The NTSB said it should have a preliminary report in a few weeks.

Crews in a boat and a helicopter searched for eight hours, covering an area of roughly 180 square miles (460 square kilometers). Hernandez said that crews did find debris, but no people. Photos of the debris released by the Coast Guard showed a cluster of cylindrical yellow objects bobbing in the water.

Hernandez said the oil platform is operated by Houston-based Walter Oil and Gas. A spokesperson for the company did not return a request for comment by The Associated Press.

The Coast Guard said the helicopter is owned by Rotorcraft Leasing Company, which did not respond to requests for more information.

Two weeks ago, another of Rotorcraft’s helicopters crashed off the Louisiana coast while attempting to land on an oil rig platform. The Coast Guard rescued three people. That Dec. 15 crash occurred south of Terrebonne Bay, roughly 60 miles (97 kilometers) west of the area the Coast Guard was searching Thursday.

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