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Wednesday, May 13

Day Two: Nepal Earthquake American Marine aid relief helicopter still missing

Below, the latest news about  no news, from Marine Corps Times, 11:36 a.m. EDT May 13, 2015 (emphasis mine).  From earlier reports today (see update to my first post) there's also a battalion of Nepalese troops searching on foot for the copter. But as no one has a good idea at present where the copter landed and they're covering a wide area of mountainous terrain, I don't know how they can keep the troops searching on the ground into Day Three.  Also, from U-T San Diego, the Marines flew 9 sorties during the daylight hours of the search on Day Two.    

Last known location of the copter

A missing Marine helicopter has not been spotted, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command told Military Times on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Deutsche Presse Agentur news agency reported that the helicopter's location may have been determined, but Army Maj. David Eastburn said the missing helicopter and its crew of six Marines have not yet been sighted.

"There are a lot of reports floating around, none are attributed to anyone and most have been investigated by DoD and determined to be fake," Eastburn said in an email to Military Times on Wednesday.

The search for the missing helicopter continued on Wednesday morning with two UH-1Y Huey helicopters leaving Kathmandu with two Air Force pararescuemen and several Marines onboard. One of the Hueys was fitted with a hoist in case the helicopter cannot find a landing site.

"Once the pair of Hueys completed their initial search, they returned to Kathmandu where two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft took off and continued the efforts," Eastburn said. "This pattern will continue all day."  

The 36th Contingency Response Group is continuing to help offloading humanitarian aid at Tribhuvan International Airport, he said.

The Huey helicopter was carrying six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers when it disappeared Tuesday during a mission in a remote mountainous region in Nepal, a defense official said.

The utility helicopter from Marine Light Attack Helicopter squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton, California, was last seen after another helicopter in the area [an Indian military copter] "picked up some [radio] chatter about a fuel problem," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

"Right now we are hopeful that there was no crash. There has been no [emergency] beacon, no other signs — no flames, no smoke, no hole in the ground — to indicate that there was a crash," Warren said.

"That said of course it's very rugged and difficult terrain," he added.

There are currently about 300 U.S. military personnel in Nepal providing humanitarian support and disaster relief supplies following the massive earthquake that hit the mountainous country more than two weeks ago.

The helicopter was flying in the vicinity of Charikot, Nepal. The six Marines, along with two Nepalese army soldiers on board, had dropped off some relief supplies, including tarps and rice, at one location and then took off on route to a second drop spot when they lost contact, Warren said.

The Nepalese Air Brigade reported the helicopter's last known airborne location and three MV-22B Ospreys searched that area for 90 minutes, but were unable to find the aircraft. The air search was halted after dark and Nepalese soldiers were heading to the area on foot, Warren said.  [that was on Tuesday]

U.S. and Nepalese aircraft will resume aerial search procedures at daybreak [Thur], according to a news release.

Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the forward commander of Joint Task Force 505, is leading the personnel rescue effort, Warren said.

[END REPORT written by MCT staff writer Andrew Tilghman]

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