3 Dead, 2 Still Missing in Navy Chopper Crash

A Poway resident was one of the five victims in a deadly Navy helicopter crash.    The U.S. Navy identified Lt. Commander Eric J. Purvis, 37, of Poway as a victim in Tuesday's crash of an SH60 Seahawk helicopter.  

The other crew members have been identified as Lt. Allison M. Oubre, 27, of Slidell, La.; Naval Air Crewman 1st Class Samuel Kerslake, 41, of Hot Springs, Ark.; Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Aaron L. Clingman, 25, of Bend, Ore.; and Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Sean M. Ward, 20, of Lovelock, Nev.

The crash happened off the coast of San Diego and killed three people Tuesday. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard are working with the Mexican Navy to search for two other crew members still missing in the 60-degree waters.

Officials say the SH60 Seahawk helicopter had taken off from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and crashed at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Harbor Police found one of the three bodies just as the sun came up -- the Coast Guard found the other two.

"Upon arriving, they encountered a debris field on the water. Two of our vessels recovered a body," said Lt. Bill Kellerman with Harbor Police.

The remains were taken to U.S. Coast Guard headquarters and loaded into vans via stretchers.  They will be transferred to military custody.

Late on Wednesday, the Oregonian newspaper's Web site reported that the Lee Clingman of North Portland said he was the father of one of the men on board the aircraft -- Aaron Lee Clingman, a 25-year-old Naval air crewman 2nd class from Oregon.

Clingman leaves behind his wife Ashley and his 10 month old daughter Aiden.

According to the Navy, the crew of five was conducting training operations off the coast of San Diego, and Northern Mexico. They're not saying at this point what may have caused the crash.

The debris field is spread out and despite what the coast guard calls perfect search conditions, 10-mile visibility, the remaining two crew members have not been located.

It would be possible for someone to survive in the water, with temperatures in the mid-60s, if they were equipped with the right gear. The water temperature while much warmer than the middle of winter, still only gives limited time before hypothermia sets in.

"It can vary anywhere from a couple hours up to 24 hours. So, we like to error on the side of being conservative and assume that they are still out there and they're surviving," said Lt. Josh Nelson, U.S. Coast Guard. "And so we're gonna continue looking until we reach that point where nobody could've survived the water that long."

Crews have found some debris, but not the main body of the aircraft.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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