By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – U.S. military rescue personnel confirmed that the wreckage of a downed aircraft identified by a Nepalese search team is the Marine Corps UH-1Y helicopter that went missing May 12 in Nepal, III Marine Expeditionary Force’s commanding general said today.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John W. Wissler, also commander of Marine Forces Japan, discussed the recovery effort this morning during a press conference.
“The six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers on board the aircraft were participating in disaster-relief missions following the second devastating earthquake that struck this country,” Wissler said.
“Because of the nature of the wreckage, it is unlikely that there are any survivors,” he said.
The helicopter, assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, was delivering humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Sahayogi Haat, the U.S. military earthquake relief effort in Nepal.
Rescuing Those in Need
Those aboard the helicopter, Wissler said, “were determined to go forward with their duties, eager to contribute to our mission and to alleviate suffering, and to come to the rescue of those in need.”
Because of extremely difficult terrain at the crash site, including below-freezing temperatures, violent winds and thunderstorms, Wissler said he made the decision to pause recovery efforts for the evening.
“We cannot afford to put U.S. or Nepalese service members at any further risk,” he said. “At first light we will resume the recovery mission.”
The helicopter, with six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard, was participating in the humanitarian assistance mission for victims of Nepal’s April 25 magnitude-7.8 earthquake when it went missing.
Joint Task Force 505
U.S. service members involved in the operations are part of Joint Task Force 505, activated in response to a request from the government of Nepal, along with other multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations.
“We are deeply saddened by the discovery of this wreckage and we will remain dedicated to the recovery effort until every last Marine and Nepalese soldier is brought home,” Wissler said.
Thanks to Nepal and India
“We … will continue to work closely with the government of Nepal and the Nepalese Armed Forces to identify the remains of all of the service members who were aboard the aircraft, and we will determine the cause of the mishap,” he said.
Wissler expressed gratitude to Nepal and India, who offered support during e extensive search efforts for the aircraft.
“We recognize that the Nepalese people have suffered a loss of thousands of their own citizens,” he said, adding, “We will continue to stand with Nepal as long as our friends need our help.”
Mourning the Loss
Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered his own condolences to the families of the U.S. and Nepalese service members who perished while providing aid to earthquake victims in the mountains of Nepal.
“This tragedy is a reminder of the vital but dangerous role that American service members play in delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Carter said in a statement.
“Our mission continues in Nepal,” the secretary added, “and we remain dedicated to answering the call when disaster strikes, both in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.”