Coast Guard Identifies Air Crew of Downed HH-65 Rescue Helicopter

HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard has identified three air crew members who lost their lives on a Thursday-evening training flight five miles south of Honolulu International Airport. The Coast Guard is continuing a search for the fourth crewmember.

Co-pilot Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, rescue swimmer Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin and flight mechanic Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols were pronounced dead last night at Queen’s Medical Center. The three had been recovered by HFD small boats and transferred to another Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter for transport to the hospital.

“Our hearts go out to their loved ones during this difficult time,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen from Washington, D.C., in an e-mail message to all service members. “The entire Coast Guard will provide whatever support services are necessary for the families and crew of Air Station Barbers Point.”

“We grieve for our lost Coast Guardsmen and continue a diligent search for our missing aviator,” said Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, commander of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District, headquartered here. “Coast Guard missions — even training missions — are inherently dangerous, and this aircrew was performing a drill in the weather conditions we are called into when we rescue others. It’s a terrible loss.”

The accident, the first fatal Coast Guard aviation mishap in Hawaii since 1982, occurred while the crew of the HH-65 was performing small boat hoists with a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Honolulu. This routine exercise prepares aircrews — and boat crews — for hoisting injured persons from a boat to the aircraft. The Coast Guard does this every day nation-wide and at least three times a week in Hawaii.

The Coast Guard has received tremendous help from the Navy, Air Force, Hawaii Air National Guard and Honolulu Fire and Police Departments on the search. Weather conditions are reported to be ideal by searchers with winds from the east at 5-10 knots and seas at 6-8 feet.

The Coast Guard is not releasing the name of the missing crewmember at this time.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

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