hawaii crash
A group of Marines walk along a beach in Haleiwa during search effortsUS Coast Guard/Levi Read

Twelve US Marines who went missing following a helicopter crash on 14 January off the coast of Hawaii have been declared dead. A witness of the incident claimed to have seen a fireball in midair, while another witness reported seeing a flare after two helicopters crashed into each other.

According to CNN, the US Marine Corps notified the US Coast Guard that two CH-53 helicopters, with six men in each chopper, were missing. A joint search by the US Navy, the National Guard and Hawaiian fire, police and Ocean Safety for the men ensued. However, after five days of search and rescue operations, the Marine Corps announced that the Marines had been declared dead.

The search was officially suspected at sunset on 19 January in Hawaii. The US Coast Guard said a total of 130 rescue personnel had covered 40,530 nautical square miles in a 115-hour search effort. The Marines had been on a training flight when the incident occurred. The Coast Guard said that no mayday call was received but it had received a report that something wrong had happened.

CNN reported that searcher caught sight of a fire and debris field that included an empty life raft, around 2 1/2 miles north of Haleiwa Beach. Searchers later discovered floating debris pieces that were consistent with the military copters.

The Marines were identified as:

  • Major Shawn M Campbell: The 41-year-old father of four was from College Station, Texas. Campbell graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in microbiology. He served three tours in the Middle East, including a tour in Iraq. He was transferred to Hawaii about two years ago, his family said. The Marine Corps said he joined on 30 September 1999 and served as a CH-53E Super Stallion pilot.
  • Captain Brian T Kennedy: The 31-year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania joined the Marine Corps on 1 July 2003. Kennedy served as a CH-53E Super Stallion pilot.
  • Captain Kevin T Roche: The 30-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri joined the Marine Corps on 19 December 2005. According to the Marine Corps, his deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom. Like Campbell and Kennedy, Roche served as a CH-53E Super Stallion pilot.
  • Captain Steven R Torbert,: The 29-year-old from Florence, Alabama joined the Marine Corps on 14 October 2004 and served as a CH-53E Super Stallion pilot. Torbert grew up in Highland Baptist Church, which said the congregation is praying for him.
  • Sergeant Adam C Schoeller: The 25-year-old from Gardners, Pennsylvania had married his wife, Samantha Wickel-Schoeller on 4 July 2015. He joined the Marine Corps on 23 March 2008 and his deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom. The Marine Corps said he served as a CH-53E Super Stallion crew chief.
  • Sergeant Dillon J Semolina: The 24-year-old from Chaska, Minnesota joined the Marine Corps on 1 September 2011. His uncle, Ryan Bachand, said he wanted to become a nurse when he left the Marines. He served as a CH-53E Super Stallion crew chief.
  • Sergeant Jeffrey A Sempler: The 22-year-old from Woodruff, South Carolina graduated from Woodruff High School in 2011. He joined the Marine Corps on 12 August 2010 and served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.
  • Sergeant William J Turner: The 25-year-old from Florala, Alabama got married in April 2015 while stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The Marine Corps said his deployments included Operation Enduring Freedom and he served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.
  • Corporal Matthew R Drown: The 23-year-old from Spring, Texas joined the Marines shortly after graduating from a suburban Houston high school in 2011. He served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.
  • Corporal Thomas J Jardas: The 22-year-old from Fort Myers, Florida is the younger brother of the reigning Miss District of Columbia, Haely Jardas. He joined the Marine Corps on 6 May 2011 and served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.
  • Corporal Christopher J Orlando: The 23-year-old from Hingham, Massachusetts joined the Marine Corps on 9 August 2012 and serves as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.
  • Lance Corporal Ty L Hart: The 21-year-old from Aumsvile, Oregon lived on base in Hawaii with his wife, according to the Oregonian. He joined the Marine Corps on 8 August 2012 and served as a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief.

According to The Associated Press, all the Marines involved had earned various decorations and were members of the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing that was stationed on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.