Search Suspended for Downed Air Force B-52 Near Guam

HAGATNA, Guam – The U.S. Coast Guard today suspended a search for survivors of a U.S. Air Force B-52 which crashed more than 25 miles off shore July 21.

A Coast Guard search and rescue command center in Apra Harbor coordinated a massive search effort involving U.S. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, National Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency and Guam Fire and Police Departments.

At approximately 6:30 p.m. today (GST), the last searches for survivors were completed. However, debris recovery efforts will continue. The Coast Guard crafted search plans for more than 49 different air and surface missions and search units scoured more than 7,000 square miles — an area 35 times the size of the island of Guam.

“It’s extremely difficult to suspend this search,” said Capt. Thomas Sparks, the senior Coast Guard officer in Guam and the commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s Sector Guam.

“We had excellent search conditions for the past three days, excellent support from our Department of Defense and Guam Territorial Government partners. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and the entire Coast Guard grieves for their loss.”

The Coast Guard cutter Assateague — a 110-foot patrol boat with a 16-person crew home ported in Apra Harbor — was on scene for the entire search, which began about 11 a.m. Monsay near the B-52’s last known position, estimated to be more than 25 miles northwest of Apra Harbor.

The Assateague’s crew reported favorable search conditions the entire time, with light winds out of the east at 5 to 10 knots and seas of two feet. Last night, searchers had good visibility with the moon at 86 percent illumination.

The Coast Guard devised search patterns from its command center in Apra Harbor and took into account natural factors –such as wind, sea current and on scene weather — to expand the search for survivors who may have drifted in the water.

Search crews today reported some light showers, but mostly optimal search conditions.

Crews aboard two MH-60S Knighthawks from a Navy helicopter squadron on Guam, a Navy P-3 Orion from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan and two Air Force F-15s searched the past three days. The Coast Guard cutter Kukui, a 225-foot buoy tender with a crew of 48 and home ported in Honolulu, was also deployed for the search along with two Coast Guard Sector Guam 25-foot small boats, a Guam Fire and Rescue Boat and a Guam Police Department Boat.

The Air Force reported the B-52 carried almost 19,000 gallons of JP-8 jet fuel, but there is no sign of a pollution threat.

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