MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Coast Guard officials said they've recovered the bodies of two of the three crewmembers who had been missing since a helicopter crashed in Mobile Bay in Alabama.
Searchers recovered the remains of Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor of Snow Hill, N.C.; and Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron of Portland, Ore., Thursday, authorities said.
A fourth crewmember, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, had been found unresponsive and later pronounced dead shortly after the crash.
The MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crashed in the bay's shallow waters during a training mission Tuesday night.
Active search and rescue operations for the remaining missing crewmember have been suspended, and crews were conducting salvage and recovery operations Friday, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
"The decision to suspend the active search was terribly difficult," said Capt. Donald Rose, commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile.
"Now, we must shift our focus to continuing salvage and recovery operations," Rose said. "As we continue to recover wreckage, we will look for the missing crewman."
Crews searched for 36 hours, conducting about 30 search patterns that covered 1,198 nautical miles within a search area of more than 200 square-nautical miles in an effort to locate the crewmen, Coast Guard officials said.
The bodies of Taylor and Cameron were recovered near the crash site, about three and a half miles south of Point Clear in Mobile Bay, Petty Officer Bill Colclough told The Associated Press.
Taylor is a father of two originally from North Carolina, said Greg Golden, a minister at Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile. Taylor and his wife Teresa have been members of the church for about six years, Golden said, adding they were planning to move in July to Atlantic City, N.J.
Cameron went to high school in Portland and attended the Coast Guard Academy, where he played soccer, The Press-Register of Mobile reported.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight, of the southwest Alabama town of Thomasville, remained missing. Mayor Sheldon Day said the town was organizing a prayer vigil for Knight, who was the flight mechanic, and the others.
Officials are asking anyone who finds debris which might be from the wreckage to contact the Coast Guard Sector Mobile command center, Colclough said.
The tail section and the fuselage were recovered from the bay and will be stored and analyzed at a secure facility as part of the investigation, Colclough said. The helicopter's flight data recorder, similar to the so-called "black box" on airplanes, had been recovered, Rose said.