'An absolute hero': Oakhurst community mourns Navy sailor killed in helicopter crash

Friends say Lt. Bradley Foster was a caring husband and father.
OAKHURST, Calif. (KFSN) -- The U.S. Navy has declared five sailors dead after they went missing following a helicopter crash off the coast of San Diego.

The helicopter was conducting routine flight operations while assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln when it crashed off the coast of southern California on Tuesday.

A sailor on board was rescued shortly after the crash, and five others who had been on the carrier's deck were injured.

On Sunday, the Navy released the identities of the five missing sailors. One of the sailors is from Oakhurst.

RELATED: 29-year-old U.S. Navy pilot from Oakhurst among 5 sailors killed in helicopter crash

By Sunday evening, the Oakhurst community was in mourning.

Friends who grew up with the sailor say Lt. Bradley Foster was an all-around great guy, a caring husband and father, and loved by everyone.

Kandice Harris and Peter Rice both went to elementary, middle, and high school with the 29-year-old Navy pilot.

"My heart just dropped... When you know somebody, and grew up with somebody that close and you see these things, that hits home. When you think about Brad and you think about memories you have of him, you can't help but remember that smile and that warmth," said Harris.

Added Rice:
"You can ask anyone he went to high school with, just the sweetest guy on planet earth, so awesome."

Growing up, Rice and Foster played sports together, and Rice recalls when he learned Foster was joining the military in 2015.

"We were also amazed and proud of him when he joined the service and wanted to serve the country, just an absolute hero and a great American and a great patriot."

About 3,400 people make up the tight-knit community of Oakhurst and many are feeling the loss deeply.

"It's a family, so you know if anything like this happens, it's always heartbreaking for so many people. The entire town feels the loss," said Harris.

The Navy has not released details of how the crash happened but said an investigation is underway.

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