Saturday, 26 April 2014

Missing SAR helicopter and crew located by underwater robot submarine near Canary Islands

An underwater robot submarine, “Rémora II”, located the wreck of a Search and Rescue helicopter that crashed into the sea in the waters of the Canary Islands in March, killing all 4 crew members, who were still on board.

The aircraft, from 802 Squadron based at the Gando airbase, has been located 2,632 metres below the surface, about 30 nautical miles southwest of Fuerteventura, during a search of the area around the last known location of the Super Puma helicopter.

Military were sent to the scene to assess the location and status of the aircraft, to ascertain how, and if it was possible, to recover both the helicopter and the bodies of Captain Daniel Pena, Lieutenants Carmen Ortega and Sebastián Ruiz, and Sergeant Carlos Caramanzana.

Described as a “complex and difficult task”, the Spanish ministry of defence contracted an American specialist recovery and recovery company, Phoenix International, at an initial cost of 3.2 million euro, although this was later revised to 5 million, who set about recovering the helicopter and crew.

Despite initially looking like the aircraft would be recovered intact, the six-hour operation proved more difficult than anticipated when the nose and tail broke away from the fuselage during the lift. As the main chunk of fuselage was brought to the surface, it then became clear that only two of the bodies remained inside, although it was impossible at the site to determine who they were.

The two bodies recovered were transferred by another Super Puma helicopter to the naval base for examination, meanwhile, the robot submarine was sent back into the water to try to locate the two now missing crew, but was unsuccessful. A number of other body parts were later recovered from the sea, with forensic tests set to be carried out to ascertain if they belong to those remaining crew members.

In the early hours of Friday morning, the aircraft was brought by ship to the Las Palmas naval base on the island of Gran Canaria.

Despite a military spokesperson confirming that the search for the other two aircrew will be continuing, the search was called off on Friday evening, as it was now considered “unlikely” to find the remaining bodies of those two missing aircrew who dedicated theirs to saving others.

Saturday 26 April 2014


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