Analysis of a Helicopter Crash in the Bering Sea
By Lieutenant Commander David R. Neel, U.S. Coast Guard
On 8 December 2004 in Skan Bay, Unalaska, the rescue of eight crewmembers from the cargo ship Selendang Ayu took a turn for the worse. Eighteen had already been rescued, and now my
helicopter, Coast Guard Rescue 6020, an HH-60 from USCG Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, was back on scene from Dutch Harbor to finish the job. We flew in blizzard conditions, working against huge seas. The Aleutian Islands weather could not have been worse. Night was falling.
During the 29th hoist of the day, a rogue wave broke over the bow of the ship. Water surged more than 100 feet skyward, enveloping our hovering HH-60. Ten people were on board: three crew and seven survivors. As the helicopter settled into the frigid ocean water, it rolled over. Four survived, including all of my crew, and were rescued by an HH-65B Dolphin in over-watch position.