UPDATE: Search continues for missing U.S. Coast Guard air crew member

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard continues to search the ocean south of Oahu today for one its own, a missing aviator from a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter which crashed Thursday.

The search area extends 40 miles off shore and stretches 35 miles from Barbers Point to Diamond Head. Coast Guard and Honolulu Fire Department search crews have conducted more than 60 sorties, or missions, in the search area, covering more than 2,500 square miles.

“We are essentially saturating the search area with as many assets as possible,” said Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, the Fourteenth Coast Guard District Commander. “We are extremely grateful for the assistance from HFD, the Navy, Air Force, Hawaii Air National Guard, state DLNR and Honolulu Police Department during this trying time.”

Coast Guard air crews from Air Stations San Francisco, Humboldt Bay, Calif., and Kodiak, Alaska, have been flown out to augment search crews here to maintain the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to other calls during the search. In addition, U.S. Navy Combat Task Group 32 (a P-3 squadron) and the Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 37 — both at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe — are on standby to provide search and rescue support for other missions in Hawaii and the Pacific.

Coast Guard assets on scene Saturday in the search area were the 378-foot high endurance cutter Rush, with a crew of 140, the 87-foot patrol boats Ahi and Kittiwake, with crews of 11 and crews aboard 41-foot and 47-foot motor lifeboats from Station Honolulu.

“Our hearts are with the loved ones of our lost aviators,” said Brown, who visited with cutter and Station Honolulu crews today. “But, we have an active search and we’ll continue while there’s a chance of survival.”

Small pieces of the downed HH-65 were recovered by the cutter crews today and were taken to the Coast Guard’s Sand Island base. The pieces will be transferred to a secure hangar at Hickam Air Force Base where it will be examined by Coast Guard investigators. The pieces were exterior panels of the fuselage.

The three aviators recovered from the downed HH-65 Thursday night and pronounced dead at Queen’s Medical Center were all Coast Guard aviation veterans:

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, 44, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., had served at Air Station Barbers Point since July 2004 and had 19 years Coast Guard experience. Previously, he had served at Air Station Miami, Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, and at Group New Orleans. He went through Naval Flight School in 1991. He was a pilot aboard the downed HH-65.

Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin, 38, of San Bernardino, Calif., had served at Air Station Barbers Point since June 2005 and had 16 years Coast Guard experience. Previously, he had served at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, and at Barbers Point in the late 1990s, Station Golden Gate (San Francisco, Calif.) and Station Freeport (Freeport, Texas) and Group Galveston, Texas. He was the rescue swimmer aboard the downed HH-65.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols, 27, of Gloucester, Va., had served at Air Station Barbers Point since July 2007 and had eight years Coast Guard experience. Previously, he had served at Aviation Training Center Mobile, Ala., Air Station San Francisco and the cutter Morgenthau, home ported in Alameda, Calif. He was the flight mechanic aboard the HH-65.

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One Comment

  1. Donna Kielma says:

    Please forward this story to the Buffalo News, Buffalo NY. Petty Officer Joshua Nicholas was married to the former Danielle Liaros, daughter of Theodore Liaros, owner of Ted’s Hot Dogs. Danielle was formerly in the Coast Guard as well and they have a 3 1/2 month old son. The body is being transported to Buffalo where funeral arrangements are being handled by Mertz Funeral home in the Town of Tonawanda