CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT) – Officials have identified a Marine killed in a helicopter training accident Wednesday night.
Military officials said a A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter belonging to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Aircraft Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing made a hard landing during Helicopter Ropes Suspension Techniques (HRST) training in a landing zone at Stone Bay, a Camp Lejeune satellite training area. HRST training provides Marines with the ability to conduct helicopter insertions and extractions where helicopter landings are impractical. About twenty Marines were participating in the training, which requires them to exit the back of the aircraft via a suspended rope while the helicopter hovers above a landing zone.
The accident happened around 9 p.m.
Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (NHCL) says one Marine was transferred there via air MEDEVAC and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Col. Jeffrey Kenney identified the Marine as 31-year-old Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis, a native of Warrenton, Virginia. He said Lewis was inside the helicopter when he was killed. Lewis was part of an anti-terrorism fleet security team based in the Norfolk, Virginia area.
Sergeant Charles Brabec who worked with Staff Sgt. Lewis said he was looking forward to the night operations. He said his leadership gave the unit time to grieve.
Of the eleven injured Marines, two were listed in stable condition while the other nine have were discharged Thursday. Initially, seven Marines were treated at NHCL; six were evaluated and released while one remains at the hospital in stable condition. Additionally, one Marine is in stable condition after being transferred to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, N.C. and is awaiting a minor procedure.
“The loss of a Marine or Sailor affects us all. My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of our deceased Marine,” said Maj. Gen. William Beydler, commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force. “While accidents like this are disturbing to the members of our Corps, we remain resilient and faithful to one another as we respond to this tragedy.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement mourning the loss of the Marine who died in the hard landing of a helicopter.
McCrory said he’s sure all of North Carolina will join him in prayer for the Marine. He said the accident “reminds us all of the dangers and sacrifices our military men and women and their families face as they protect our freedom and way of life.”
A hard landing is when an aircraft impacts the ground with a greater vertical speed and force than a normal landing, typically after a rapid or steep descent.
In the past two years there have been at least 19 training related deaths involving service men and women either from or stationed in North Carolina.
The most recent training accident was in March 2015.
7 Marines from Camp Lejeune and 4 Louisiana National Guardsman were killed when their Blackhawk crashed off the coast of Florida. The men were undergoing a training mission in dense fog.
The incident remains under investigation.