Authorities Search for Survivors in Mid-Air Collision

October 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A search and rescue mission continues this Friday in the waters near San Diego after a Coast Guard plane and Marine helicopter collided in mid-air.The crash was reported around 7 p.m. Thursday night about 50 miles off the San Diego County coast and 15 miles east of San Clemente Island. The Coast Guard says nine people are missing.

The search continues Friday, 50 miles off the coast of San Diego for nine people missing after a mid-air collision between a Coast Guard plane and a Marine Corps helicopter last night.

"We have not found any human remains at this point or survivors. There is a substantial debris field, which we are investigating," said Capt. Thomas Farris with the Coast Guard.

An eyewitness reported seeing two, large explosions and a large fireball.

The Coast Guard aircraft was engaged in a search and rescue mission for a small boat missing since Wednesday.

The Marine Corps Cobra chopper was on a training mission from Camp Pendleton to San Clemente Island.

"The survivability is in the neighborhood of 19 to 20 hours or more, depending on your body type and the equipment you are wearing. We are not, at this time, basing our search efforts on survival time, but more max coverage of the search area," said Capt. Farris.

Investigators are looking at whether this was an issue of communications, as it doesn't appear there were any mechanical failures with either aircraft and the weather was clear at the time of the accident.

Officials said the Coast Guard crew had survival gear on board their aircraft. "We are always hopeful. We are working very hard to make sure we cover every possibility, and the assumption is always that they are alive," said Farris.

As bad as the mid-air collision was, it actually could have been worse. The Marine Corps helicopter involved in the collision was flying with three other helicopters in formation.

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