A call came in to US Coast Guard officials in Honolulu around 10:08 p.m. local time Tuesday night from from Wheeler Army Airfield saying that communication had been lost with one of two 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Black Hawk crews that were training between Kaena Point and Dillingham Airfield.
25th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg said the two UH-60 crews were conducting a night training mission when the second aircraft lost visual and audio contact with the first.
The Coast Guard issued an emergency marine broadcast and launched a rescue operation with assistance from the Honolulu Fire Department (HFD). In a news release published Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard said, "A debris field was spotted near Kaena Point by the Coast Guard Hercules and Army Black Hawk aircrews at 11:28 p.m. Tuesday. Responders are currently searching for the five missing aircrewmen," according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Honolulu Fire Battalion Chief Paul Fukuda told Hawaii News Now, "We found some debris and we recovered some debris, we cannot determine where it's from. It's so spread out and with the darkness, it's hard to say how big the debris field was."
The HFD had four units respond to the incident after being called to assist the Coast Guard not long after midnight Wednesday. The units included a shoreline and sea search and a rescue boat.
Weather conditions at the site of the search include two-foot seas and winds ranging from 15 to 25 mph, according to the Coast Guard. Coast Guard responding units include a 45-foot Response Boat, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, an 87-foot patrol boat called the Cutter Ahi and an HC-130 Hercules airplane, along with a Black Hawk unit from Wheeler.
The Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and The Army immediately conducted a search after the first helicopter went missing around 9:30 p.m.
"We are working closely with our partners to saturate that entire area," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.
In January 2016, two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters collided near Oahu’s North Shore, also while conducting night time training exercises. Twelve Marines were killed in that accident.