11 presumed dead in National Guard helicopter crash
PENSACOLA, FL - The Coast Guard says the search area for an Army helicopter that crashed with 11 Marines and National Guard members on board is about 50 square miles.
Base officials say the Marines are part of a Camp Lejeune-based special operations group and the soldiers are from a Hammond, Louisiana-based National Guard unit.
The Coast Guard says debris from the crash was first spotted about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Search crews on the beach and in the Santa Rosa Sound are still trying to navigate dense fog and light rain. Some human remains have washed ashore. A Pentagon official says the 11 service members are presumed dead.
Navarre Beach is known for its undeveloped beauty and relaxed feel. There is one main beach bar and restaurant - Juana's Pagoda. There are dozens of boats from police agencies, the Coast Guard and other search and rescue agencies taking off from the boat ramp behind Juana's Pagoda on Santa Rosa Island.
A woman who lives and works at a campground near where a military helicopter crashed with 11 Marines and soldiers aboard says she heard something strange about the time the chopper was reported missing.
Kim Urr was sitting outside with a friend around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Navarre Beach campground. Urr says they are used to hearing helicopters and ordnance blasts from the military base nearby, but this sound was different.
"It sounded like something metal either being hit or falling over, that's what it sounded like. And there were two booms afterward, similar to what you hear with ordnance booms, but more muffled," Urr said.
Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland says the helicopter - a UH-60 Black Hawk from the Army National Guard - was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and crews found debris in the early morning hours of Wednesday.
The Louisiana National Guard is set to hold a press conference to update the public on the helicopter accident from the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Hammond at 2 p.m. News 2 plans to live stream the press conference on WBRZ.com.