1960 - 10 AUGUST, 2000

The Crew
LT Edward R. Fassnacht USN, 31
LT Shawn O. Jacobs USN, 30
AD1 Jeffrey S. Paschal USN, 40
AD2 David E. Rutherford USN, 27

AD3 Jeremy J. Yakin USN, 19
ADAN Shawn R. Palyo USN, 20

MH-53E "Sea Dragon"

Hurricane 02

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Friday, August 11, 2000
Two die in Navy copter crash
By Dan Parker and Deborah Martinez, Caller-Times

Two crew members were killed, two were rescued and two others were missing Thursday after a Navy mine countermeasures helicopter crashed about three miles off Malaquite Beach on Padre Island National Seashore.

The MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed about 11 a.m., shortly after someone onboard radioed that the aircraft had undergone a mechanical malfunction, said Cmdr. Bob Riehl, commanding officer of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

The two surviving crew members - Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy J. Yaklin, 19, of LaPeer, Mich., and Airman Shawn R. Palyo, 20, of Stratford, Conn. - were in stable condition Thursday night at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial. They were found floating with the aid of a inflatable life preservers. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued one, while a Navy helicopter rescued the other.

Yaklin suffered compound fractures and had some bleeding, Riehl said. Palyo's injuries were less serious, he added.

One of the crew members killed was identified as Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Paschal, a 40-year-old aviation machinist mate from Phoenix. Navy and Coast Guard officials would not release the names of the other crew members involved because their families had not yet been notified. The crew is assigned to HM-15, a mine countermeasures squadron based at NAS Corpus Christi.

The bodies of those who died were recovered from the water near where the helicopter went down. The search for the remaining crew was continuing. "I can tell you, from our perspective, this is a difficult situation for everybody," Riehl said. "I have a lot of people in the squadron. They all have friends that are pilots and air crewmen, and... it's a very hard thing for us to deal with. But we're dealing with it professionally."

"Such a sad, sad thing"
Yaklin's mother, Jeanette Yaklin, was dealing with a jumble of emotions as her family made plans to fly to Corpus Christi. "It's such a sad, sad thing to thatnk that something like this could happen," she said. Tim and Jeanette Yaklin said they received the news about their only son's accident from their daughter-in-law, Beth, who was at her husband's bedside all day, Jeanette Yaklin said. Yaklin, who marked his second month of marriage Thursday, has been in the Navy for two years, his mother said. "He's very serious about what he does," she said. "He loves his job, he tells us. He always wanted to fly. He'll be just fine."

"Able to radio In"
The helicopter departed NAS Corpus Christi Thursday morning and had been on its mission for about 30 minutes when the crew radioed that there was a problem. The helicopter, which can use its sonar equipment out the rear of the aircraft, hadn't begun its operation the trouble was reported, Riehl said. "The helicopter was able to radio in and let the squadron know they were having some type of mechanical malfunction," said LTjg Chuck Bell, Mine Warfare Command public affairs officer. 'Don't know what that mechanical malfunction is. Way too early in the game to figure that out."

"Found the aircraft wreckage"
Crew members indicated they would attempt a precautionary  landing on Padre Island, but that was the last radio transmission that was heard, Riehl said. Another Navy helicopter training in the area flew toward the beach where the landing was expected. "The other aircraft . . . was enroute to follow the mishap aircraft to the beach to render any assistance he could, " Riehl said. "Reports are that, enroute to the beach, the second aircraft identified the mishap aircraft in the water and radioed back to our base that he found the aircraft wreckage."

Altitude not unusual
The wreckage was found no more than 15 minutes after the last radio transmission, he said. Reports indicated the helicopter was about 100 feet above the water when it started heading for the beach, Riehl said. The altitude was not unusual - helicopters involved in the training typically fly less than 300 feet above the ground, he said.

Navy and Coast Guard rescue crews searched calm seas with at least two helicopters, one jet and several boats, including the USS Gladiator, a mine countermeasures ship that was in the area when the helicopter went down.

Search will continue
Coast Guard Operations Officer David McBride said the helicopter sank in water about 30 feet deep. McBride said the search would go on all night. Today the search will continue with aircraft, possibly one more Navy ship and an 87-foot Coast Guard vessel that traveled to the area from Padre Island, The search area is contained to about a 4-mile-by-7-mile area, but the currents are sending debris toward the beach, McBride said.

"I always have hope"

Coast Guard officials said most of the helicopter sank, but Riehl said the aircraft eventually will be raised from the gulf bottom and brought back to NAS Corpus Christi to help investigators determine the cause of the crash. For now all efforts are concentrated on finding the rest of the crew.

"I always have hope as long as we've got the Coast Guard and our aircraft and the ships from Ingleside are involved in the search effort," Reihl said. "It's a big area. It's a big ocean. There's always hope that individuals will turn up."

"This was pretty rare"
MH-53E helicopters are routinely used in mine countermeasures training in the Gulf of Mexico. Riehl said the helicopter has a good safety record. "It's got three engines, four hydraulic systems, a lot of redundancy to preclude things like this from happening," Riehl said. "It is not very often we find ourselves in a position of having to do a precautionary emergency landing, so this was pretty rare, actually."

The MH-53E is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. of Stratford, Conn. It has a seven-blade main rotor and is designed for both land and ship-based operations. It is 99 fet long/

"There's inherent risk"
In addition to mine countermeasures, the MH-53E can be used to tow vessels, transport cargo and transport equipment. The helicopter can be outfitted to carry up to 55 passengers, but the helicopter that crashed was equipped to carry a maximum crew of eight.

The helicopter's maximum gross weight is 69,750 pounds, and the empty weight is about 36,745 pounds. It can tow as much as 25,000 pounds. "There's inherent risk in operating military aircraft and conducting military missions," Riehl said. "I don't want to say it comes with the job, but it's something that's happened in the past, and it's happened to us today," Riehl said. "And we will do everything we can to find out exactly the cause of the mishap was and what we can do to preclude this from ever happening again."

"Everybody is out there doing what they love," Riehl said. "Some may have paid the ulrimate price."

Posted on:
Corpus Christi Caller-Times web site Friday, August 11, 2000 01:00 PM

Two missing in Navy helicopter crash identified

U.S. Navy officials Friday morning identified two crewmen killed in a crash of a MH-53E helicopter, as they continue to look for two others who are missing and prepare to salvage the wreckage from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

The missing have been identified as Lt. Edward R. Fassnacht, 31, of Akron, Ohio, the co-pilot; and David E. Rutherford, 27, of Mason Town, PA., who is an Aviation Machinist Mate Second Class.

The Navy identified the dead men as the pilot, Shawn O. Jacobs, 30, of Jefferson City, MO., and Jeffrey S. Paschal, 40, of Phoenix, AZ. Yaklin is an Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class; Palyo, Aviation Machinist Mate Airman; Paschal, Aviation Machinist Mate First Class.

Jeremy J. Yaklin, 19, of Lapeer, Michigan and ADAN Shawn R. Palyp, 20, of Stratford, Connecticutt were hospitalized in stable condition Friday in Corpus Christi, Authorities said. The search by air and sea for two other missing crewmen continued throughout Thursday night and into Friday.

Admiral Jose L. Betancourt and Commander Riehl visited the two injured in the hospital and said that Palyo suffered lacerations and is expected to be released from the intensive care unit today. Yaklin suffered an injured leg and a possible fractured pelvis and is still in ICU.

No memorial services have been planned yet, Navy officials said, and none is expected until the two missing men have been found. The MH-53E helicopter, also known as a Sea Dragon, crashed in 50 feet of water Thursday morning during a training mission. Early Friday, salvage crews hauled debris away from the waterline, where a helicopter blade, human remains and chunks of insulation washed ashore.

The Navy and Coast Guard are combing a 2-and-a-half-by-2-and-a-half-mile area, and that they have located four yet-unidentified items on the Gulf's floor. On Friday morning, searchers found an 18-by-4-foot item, which they believe may be part of the helicopter, said Navy Commander Barry Coceano.

Six divers searched in about 51 to 60 feet of water on Friday in silty water that only provided about 4 feet of visability, officials said. The helicopter was practicing minesweeping about 17 miles offshore as part of a training mission when it reported a mechanical malfunction, Navy officials said. It was attempting to return to shore when it crashed.

Another helicopter taking part in the training mission spotted wreckage about 15 minutes after the distress call. The survivors floating in life jackets were rescued more than 30 minutes later. Training flights will resume on Monday doing what we were doing just a couple of days ago, Riehl said.

The MH-53E is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Conn. In 1996, a similar model, the CH-53E Super Stallion, crashed killing four Sikorsky employees in Stratford. The Navy temporarily halted flights of all "E" models, including the Super Stallion and the Sea Dragon. A faulty bearing was blamed for the 1996 crash.

In addition to mine countermeasures, the MH-53E can be used to tow vessels, transport cargo and transport equipment. The helicopter can carry 55 passengers, or a 16-ton payload. In 1991, six members of the same squadron were killed in the Persian Gulf when their Sea Dragon helicopter crashed after taking off from a ship north of Bahrain.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Friday, August 11, 2000
MH-53Es have a long history of problems
By Kathryn A. Wolfe, Caller-Times

The Super Stallion family of helicopters, which includes the MH-53E Sea Dragon that crashed Thursday morning, has had a history of deadly crashes despite its manufacture's assertions that it is safe.

Bill Tuttle, a spokeman for Sikorsky Aircraft, which makes the helicopters, said the Sea Dragon has performed its military mission well and called it a "very safe helicopter."  But the MH-53, one of the Western world's largest helicopters, has a history of lethal mechanical failures and has been grounded at least once since it began service in the early 1980s. It is also one of a number of military aircraft that critics have denounced as part of a aging fleet, with design origins that date back to the 1960s.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dawn Cutler said Thursday's crash represents the first MH-53 accident this year. The exact number of drew fatalities in accidents involving the helicopter was unavailable Thursday, but at least 30 have been killed, including those on Thursday, and 15 wounded since 1984, according to news reports.

In June of 1996, the U.S. Navy grounded 200 of it's H-53 Super Stallion and MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters after a crash killed a crew of four at Sikorsky's testing facility in Connecticut. Sikorsky recommended the aircraft be grounded following the crash so inspectors could examine the parts that connect the rotor blades to the body of the helicopter.

The CH-53 Super Stallion, a helicopter similar to the Sea Dragon, was grounded twice - once in 1984 following a crash in North Carolina that killed six Marines and again in 1987 after five Marines died in a crash in California, United Press International reported. After the Super Stallions were grounded, the Secretary of the Navy ordered flight restrictions to be placed on the CH-53 because of design deficiencies found during an investigation of the aircraft, UPI reported.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Saturday, August 12, 2000
Four Navy crew killed in copter crash

An MH-53E, assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15). crashed in 50 feet of water the morning of August 10, 2000 during a training mission killing four of its six crewmen.

The dead men have been identified as LT Edward R. Fassnacht, 31, of Akron, Ohio, the co-pilot; LT Shawn O. Jacobs, 30, pilot, of Jefferson City, Missouri;  Aviation Machinist Mate Second Class  David E. Rutherford, 27, of Mason Town, Pennsylvania, and Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Jeffrey S. Paschal, 40, of Phoenix, Arizona.

As of August 11, the survivors Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class Jermey J. Yaklin, 19, of Lapeer, Michigan; and Aviation Machinist Mate Airman Shawn R. Paylo, 20, of Stratford, Connecticut, were hospitalized in stable condition in Corpus Christi, authorities said.

The helicopter departed from NAS Corpus Christi and had been on its mission for about 30 minutes when the crew radioed that there was a problem. Crew members indicated they would attempt a precautionary landing on Padre Island, but that was the last radio transmission that was hears, said Navy Ltjg Chuck Bell, Mine Warefare Command public Affairs Officer.

CNN.COM Posted at 10:06 p.m. EDT (0206 GMT) August 28, 2000
Pentagon may extend flight ban on "heavy-lift" helicopter's

WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials said Monday that 165 marine CH-53E "Super Stallions" and 47 Navy "Sea Dragon" helicopter grounded last week may face an extended flight ban because of fear that the aircraft may have a serious mechanical defect.

The workhorse MH- and CH-53s are the U.S. Military's only "heavy lift" helicopters.

Pentagon sources said wreckage recovered from the August 10 crash of a Navy MH-53E in the Gulf of Mexico indicates it may have suffered a mechanical problem the Navy had thought had been corrected after a crash in 1996.

Four of six crew members were killed in the August 10 crash, when the Navy minesweeping helicopter went down off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas, after reporting mechanical problems. Pentagon sources said a preliminary investigation found that a key part known as a "duplex swashplate bearing" might have failed on the main rotor.

A similar finding led to the grounding of 200 helicopters in 1996 after the crash of a Marine Corps MH-53E in May of that year at the Connecticut factory of the helicopter's manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. Four crewmen were killed in that accident.

On June 2, 1999, an Air Force MH-53J, which is similar to the Navy aircraft, crashed during training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, killing one crew member. The Air Force says none of its MH-53J "Pavelow" helicopters have been grounded because that is a different model.


I hear the sound of death's call
of sailor's brave and tall,
No men of fame were they
No men of great names were they
But men they were - just men
who knew and did their duty.
Asking nothing - giving all
till the day of their call and fall to death.
But as their souls ascend on high
and as the angels carry them by
I can hear the bugle blow the sound of taps
and the call to the unknown
both beautiful, melancholy and
haunting is the sound of taps
For it's the final fire of a
Hero's goodbye.

                                 Airborne Mine Countermeasures Association

Last revised on 16 February, 2001© Airborne Mine Countermeasures Association, Virginia Beach, Virginia  Webmaster - Barry Marple, Virginia Beach, Virginia. All rights reserved.