Search teams found the wreckage of an Army Black Hawk helicopter reported missing during a training mission off Florida's Gulf Coast and were working to locate the bodies of 11 service members killed in the crash, U.S. officials said Thursday.
"At this point we are not hopeful for survivors, and we are transitioning our search-and-rescue operation to a recovery-and-safety investigation," Air Force Colonel Monte Cannon told reporters in Navarre, Florida.
Seven Marines and four soldiers were on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that plunged into the Santa Rosa Sound along the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise in foggy conditions Tuesday night.
Some human remains and debris have washed ashore. The Louisiana National Guard said Thursday that two soldiers' bodies had been recovered and the other two were most likely still underwater in the wrecked aircraft.
Officials said they had not determined the cause of the crash. A second helicopter in the exercise turned back because of the weather and was able to land safely.
Persistent fog has hampered the search efforts, which began after officials at nearby Eglin Air Force Base were notified of the crash about 10 p.m. Tuesday, said Mark Giuliano, fire chief at the base.
Sonar equipment helped locate the helicopter Wednesday in the middle of the bay, Giuliano said.
"It was certainly a high-impact crash," he said, adding that the helicopter had broken into multiple pieces.
The Marines aboard were part of a special operations unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They were conducting training involving "helicopter and boat insertion and extraction," with an experienced Army air crew providing the helicopter support, a Marine Corps spokesman said.
The soldiers and the helicopter were part of the Louisiana National Guard assigned to an Army unit based in Hammond, Louisiana.
Grieving families have begun sharing the names of the dead, whose identities have not yet been released by the military.
Among the dead Marines were Marcus Bawol of Warren, Michigan, and Kerry Kemp, formerly of Port Washington, Wisconsin, local media reported.