NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - Coast Guard and local authorities recovered the remains of the missing Coast Guardsman who fell in the water near the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel late Wednesday night.
Crews recovered the body near the MMBT at approximately 5 p.m. Thursday in 50-feet deep water with a temperature of 68 degrees. "We really wanted to find him on the surface. We really wanted to find him alive," said Captain Mark Ogle, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.
At approximately 9:15 p.m. Wednesday night, a Maritime Safety and Security Team New York member fell off a small Coast Guard boat. The accident happened during tactical boat operations with the Coast Guard Cutter Frank Drew.
"The boarding team was in full tactical gear. The individual that fell over the side was the last to come up. It appears he fell off the ladder," Ogle said.
The ladder was on a buoy tender. In a real terror event, it would help the team take control of a vessel. The Coast Guard's Frank Drew, which was taking part in the training exercise, and several Coast Guard boats, immediately started the search.
"It is a difficult task to conduct any search and rescue operation, even more so, when it is one of your own that needs help," Ogle said.
John Bull, with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the parent agency of the Virginia Marine Police told WAVY.com, "We searched with them until about 3:30 in the morning. Picked it up again [Thursday] morning. We have two boats out there with four officers, and we continue to search in a grid pattern to see if we can locate the gentleman."
Ogle told WAVY.com the missing guardsman was wearing a helmet with a chemical light. Members of the rescue team recovered the helmet before recovering the body. The guardsman was also wearing 60 pounds of standard gear, including emergency rescue equipment. Ogle said the Coast Guard is still trying to understand why there have been no signals from that equipment during the search operation.
Four tactical boat crews from the MSRT unit, a Coast Guard Station Portsmouth response boat crew, the Coast Guard Cutters Frank Drew and Mako, a Coast Guard rescue helicopter aircrew from Air Station Elizabeth City, a Virginia Marine Police response boat crew, and fire department and police department boat crews from Newport News assisted in the search.
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