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3 die as Coast Guard helicopter crashes near James Island at LaPush

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James Island webcam view

Forks Forums report - update 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Three are dead in the crash of a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at La Push. The helicopter, with 4 crewmembers aboard, went down in waters near James Island at LaPush this morning. Reports from LaPush are saying the crash was witnessed by people at the River's Edge restaurant and elsewhere. One member of the crew survived, though suffered serious injuries, and was transported by ambulance from the scene.

A report from surfers at LaPush who were on the scene when the crash happened said the helicopter appeared to come in fast from the south and was banking along the coast. As it was going around James Island, the report said. the pilot apparently realized the aircraft was heading into the power lines that run from LaPush to James Island. The pilot apparently tried to make a maneuver to avoid the power lines, but the back end of the helicopter caught the power lines, bringing down both the helicopter and the power lines. The report said there was no visible explosion or large spark from the power lines when the helicopter struck the lines.

Another report said those who witnessed the accident were in shock and at first unable to respond to the crash.

The helicopter flew out of the Coast Guard base at Astoria, Oregon and was on its way to Sitka, Alaska. The crash occurred at about 9:30 a.m. The MH-60 Jayhawk is one of the smaller rescue helicopters used by the Coast Guard and is used in rescue and search operations, plus for homeland security.

Rescue efforts began immediately. Reports say a Quileute fisherman and a helper were immediately on the scene and pulled two crewmembers, one from the wreckage, one from the ocean. One crewmember, who was missing, has been recovered. and another reamains missing.

Helicopters from Astoria and Port Angeles are on the scene, as well as boats from the Quillayute River Coast Guard station at LaPush. A low surf condition is aiding the rescue effort.

Ambulances from Forks were sent to the scene, and the two victims first recovered were transported to a local hospital.

The Clallam County PUD deactived electrical lines in the area to help with the rescue.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and the National Parks Service had dive teams on the way to the scene were en route and Quileute tribal response teams are providing additional assistance, officials said.

Watch for updates as they come in.

KING5 interview with Quileute River Harbormaster.
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