Memorial Service Held for Air Station Barbers Point Crash Victims

HONOLULU — A gathering of more than 2,000 at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point here helped honor the legacies of four air crewmen who were aboard an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter when it crashed Sept. 4.

Three of the air crew died in the accident and the fourth was lost at sea.

Today’s 90-minute service began at 10 a.m. with a presentation of colors by the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, the national anthem performed by the Coast Guard Band. The event also featured remarks by Air Station Barbers Point’s commanding officer, and the Coast Guard commandant and the service’s senior enlisted member.

The service also included a memorial meditation and prayer, a rifle salute, the playing of taps and a flyover by two crews aboard two Barbers Point HH-65s. After a flyover of the air station, one of the HH-65s broke away and flew out to the accident site of Coast Guard 6505 to lay a wreath on the ocean’s surface.

“Suffice it to say, we lost more than an air crew,” said Capt. Brad Bean, commanding officer of the 300-member air station. “We lost a brother and a truly selfless friend in each of them.”

The service brought together all U.S. Coast Guardsmen stationed on Oahu and the families of Cmdr. Thomas Nelson, Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Wischmeier, Petty Officer 1st Class David Skimin and Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Nichols.

Nelson and Wischmeier were assigned as pilots aboard “Coast Guard 6505” and Skimin was the rescue swimmer with Nichols assigned to flight mechanic duties. The crew was to conduct rescue basket hoist operations with a small boat from Station Honolulu on the evening of Sept. 4, when the HH-65 crashed.

Wischmeier, Skimin and Nichols were recovered by rescuers and transported to the Queen’s Medical Center where they were pronounced dead. The Coast Guard conducted a three-day search for Nelson, who remains missing.

“On the night of Sept. 4, the crew of Coast Guard 6505 was on a routine training flight,” Bean told the audience, which included most Oahu-based Coast Guardsmen and family members of the four honored air crew members. “There was nothing unusually risky about this flight, but last Thursday night, something heartbreaking happened that resulted in the loss of our friends.”

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and the Coast Guard’s many military and community partners joined local Coast Guardsmen for today’s service. Personnel with the U.S. Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Hawaii Army National Guard also attended.

The Honolulu Fire Department, which assisted during the entire three-day search and recovery mission, was represented by more than 50 personnel. Federal, state and City and County of Honolulu government representatives were also in attendance, as were representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Secret Service, FBI, Transportation Security Administration and other Department of Homeland Security agencies.

The family members of all four air crew members were presented with certificates that accompanied the Meritorious Service Medal, given to all four air crew members.

“It is the custom of our service and of all our armed forces to mark significant events with military ceremonies and honors,” said Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant. “It affords us the opportunity to provide dignity to the event, and allows us to exercise what one of my mentors called ‘the matters of our profession.'”

Allen flew in to Honolulu for the service early this morning with Master Chief Petty Officer Skip Bowen, the service’s senior enlisted member.

“Our hearts are breaking with the loss of our shipmates,” Allen said to the families of the fallen aviators. “But in our loss, we know, understand and celebrate the lives of Tom Nelson, Andrew Wischmeier, David Skimin and Joshua Nichols.”

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.