Two Dead, One Missing After Navy Helicopter Crashes Off Virginia Coast

Two dead after helicopter crash; two hospitalized; search efforts continue for 5th person

Two crew members died after a U.S. Navy helicopter crashed off the Virginia coast Wednesday. Two others are injured, and a fifth person remains missing.

The helicopter -- a MH-53E Sea Dragon -- sent a distress call around 10:45 a.m. while on a training mission about 18 miles off the Virginia Beach coast. It crashed several minutes later with five people aboard.

The Navy described the incident as "an emergency water landing."

Four people were able to surface and were pulled from the frigid water by rescue choppers before being airlifted to a local hospital. One died early Wednesday afternoon and another later that evening.

Their identities will not be released until 24 hours after their families are notified, the Navy said.

The Navy, the Coast Guard and local fire and rescue crews say they will continue searching for the fifth member into the night.

The water in the area is 41 degrees, reports NBC Washington's Storm Team 4 Meteorologist Veronica Johnson. Hypothermia generally sets in after about 10 to 20 minutes in water that cold.

A witness saw a rescue chopper land at the hospital.

"I saw a big helicopter land here [at the hospital], and it landed really quick and fast," said Chris Goetz. "They took two guys in on the stretchers. It immediately took back off and came back maybe five minutes later and had two more guys all on the stretcher."

The helicopter that crashed was based out of at Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field and had been flying with another MH-53E on the training mission.

Shortly after the crash, the Navy identified the aircraft as a CH-53E Super Stallion before issuing a correction.

Sea Dragons (pictured right in Getty Images file photo) are 99 feet long and weigh about 69,750 pounds. They are capable of speeds up to 172 mph.

This isn't the only Navy crash in the Virginia Beach area in recent memory. In April 2012, a Navy jet crashed into a Virginia Beach apartment complex during a training mission. Seven people were injured in that crash, which occurred due to a rare dual-engine malfunction, the Navy said.

The cause of Wednesday's crash is under investigation.

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