A Navy helicopter crashed in the James River during a training mission on Tuesday, and three crewmembers were plucked from the water uninjured by a passing vessel, authorities said.
The MH-60S helicopter went down near the James River Bridge, Newport News Fire Battalion Chief Stephen Pincus told reporters. He did not specify what kind of boat rescued the crew, who were later transferred to police and fire boats and taken ashore. Photos of the scene show them walking on their own once on land.
Naval Air Force Atlantic Spokesman Mike Maus said no one was injured, but the crewmembers were taken to the Portsmouth Medical Center for observation.
An investigation will be done to determine the cause of the crash, Maus said. The helicopter is part of a squadron based out of Norfolk Naval Station Chambers Field, Maus said. He said he could not release the names of the crewmembers on board.
Boater David Hayslett told WAVY-TV that the helicopter was hovering low above the water before it crashed. He said he saw the tail of the helicopter hit the top of a buoy and break off. The helicopter then lost control, he said.
“Then the chopper lay sideways and the blades hit the water and the blades went everywhere,” Hayslett said. The helicopter then quickly sunk, Hayslett said.
Michelle Covington, who was relaxing on a nearby beach when she saw the crew arrive back on shore after the crash, said they appeared shaken up but unhurt.
“It was definitely a miracle,” Covington said.
The helicopter is one of several military aircraft to crash in recent weeks.
A Blue Angels pilot was killed while practicing for an air show earlier this month in Tennessee. That same day, a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds crashed in Colorado but ejected safely.
Last week, two South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 fighter pilots ejected safely after a midair collision in eastern Georgia.
In May, two Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets based in Virginia Beach crashed off the North Carolina coast. The four people on board the two-seater jets survived and were plucked from the Atlantic Ocean in the wake of the crash.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Ben Finley and Alanna Durkin Richer