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Missing American Military Personnel Identified After Plane Crash


FILE - Lt. Steven Combs, assigned to the Providers of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30. Lt. Combs is one of three Sailors lost when their C-2A Greyhound crashed while conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Nov 22. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The three American sailors who missing since their plane crashed into the Philippine Sea were identified by the U.S. Navy on Saturday as Lt. Steven Combs, Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Matthew Chialastri, and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso.

A photo combo of Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri (Left), assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso, assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
A photo combo of Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri (Left), assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso, assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Navy said Thursday that eight U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, three helicopter squadrons and maritime patrol aircraft had covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the two-day search for the missing sailors.

On Thursday, search and rescue efforts were halted for the three sailors, who were lost at sea Wednesday when a U.S. Navy transport plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families,” said Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, commander, Task Force 70.

“As difficult as this is, we are thankful for the rapid and effective response that led to the rescue of eight of our shipmates, and I appreciate the professionalism and dedication shown by all who participated in the search efforts.”

​Routine mission

The Navy said the twin-propeller C2-A Greyhound aircraft plummeted into the sea about 925 kilometers southeast of Okinawa while it was on a routine mission taking passengers and cargo from a U.S. base in Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

FILE - U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea.
FILE - U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea.

It said the eight people were rescued about 40 minutes later and taken to the Reagan where they are reported in good condition. There was no immediate explanation for the crash, and the Navy said the incident is being investigated.

U.S. President Donald Trump, at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, said via Twitter that he is monitoring the situation.
“Prayers for all involved,” he said.

Joint exercises with Japan

The Reagan was operating in the Philippine Sea as part of joint exercises with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, part of 10 days of training designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea maneuvers between the two countries.

More than 14,000 U.S. personnel are participating in the drills, which also include the guided-missile destroyers USS Stethem, USS Chafee and USS Mustin, and a maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadron.

Fifth accident this year

Wednesday’s crash was the fifth major Navy incident in Asian waters this year. Two fatal accidents left 17 sailors dead and prompted the Defense Department to remove of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the 7th Fleet commander.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in August off Singapore, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead and five injured. The USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a container ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

After investigations, the Navy concluded the collisions were avoidable, resulting from widespread failures by commanders and crewmembers, who did not recognize and respond quickly to the emergencies as they unfolded. The Navy has called for improved training, and increasing sleep and stress management for sailors.

Separately, in January, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan, and the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.

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    Aline Barros

    Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.

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