Officials at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina have identified all seven Marines killed when an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training exercise Tuesday night.
The helicopter was returning from an aborted training mission in Santa Roase Sound off Navarre, Florida, with four soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard and the seven Marines aboard.
The dead Marines were identified Friday as Capt. Stanford H. Shaw, III, 31, from Basking Ridge, New Jersey; Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders, 33, from Williamsburg, Virginia; Staff Sgt. Marcus S. Bawol, 26, from Warren, Michigan; and Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock, 29, from Lake Orion, Michigan.
Also, Staff Sgt. Liam A. Flynn, 33, from Queens, New York; Staff Sgt. Kerry M. Kemp, 27, from Port Washington, Wisconsin and Staff Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, 26, from Holland, Michigan.
All saw combat in Afghanistan.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines, soldiers and their families as we all mourn this tragic loss of life,” Camp Lejeune spokesman Capt. Barry Morris said.
Marine Corps Officials said at a press conference that two helicopters left Eglin Air Force Base on the training mission over water that night.
The mission was aborted when weather conditions worsened. One chopper returned. That aircraft went back out when the other helicopter didn’t show up, WPMI-TV reported.
Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the La. National Guard told Al.com Friday morning that fog and rough surf conditions were hindering a salvage barge from retrieving the main portion of the helicopter. The wreckage was found Thursday settled in 25 feet of water.
Air Force officials at Eglin said in a press release the salvage barge was expected to be at the crash site at noon Friday.
“The operation is expected to take eight hours, weather pending,” said the release issued Friday. “An Army and Coast Guard dive team will also be on site to assist in the recovery.”
The Army said it has recovered the bodies of two of the four soldiers from the Louisiana Army National Guard helicopter.
The helicopter went down in thick fog Tuesday night during a routine training mission at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. The cause of the crash — described as "high impact" by Eglin Fire Chief Mark Giuliano — is being probed by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center out of Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The families of two of the Marines spoke about their loss. Lora Waraksa, of Wisconsin, the sister of Kemp’s wife Jenna said her brother-in-law was a "proud Marine, a loving husband and most wonderful father," with a child about to turn 1.
Brandy Peek, the sister of Bawol, said military officials told them his remains had been identified. Bawol "loved everything about the military," Peek said.
The tragedy struck hard in the beach towns near the Eglin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station, where families often come to relax between difficult deployments.
"My heart is really hurt right now knowing these people were here just on training — knowing they went and left their family members and did not give that goodbye, you know, because they weren't going off to war," a tearful Dolly Edwards, herself the wife of a Marine, said at a community vigil Wednesday night.
The National Guard soldiers, from Hammond, Louisiana, each did two tours in Iraq, and joined in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.