Oahu, Hawaii – Two CH-53 Marine helicopters crashed during an overnight training flight off the coast of Oahu, a Hawaiian island. Authorities have been searching for 12 crew members missing at sea after searchers spotted a fire and debris field about 2½ miles north of Haleiwa Beach.

Two CH-53 Marine helicopters crashed during a training flight off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. 12 Marines remain missing. Credit: GunCopter

“Thoughts & prayers are with our Marines & their families in Hawaii as search efforts continue. We remain Semper Fidelis,” tweeted Marine commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, expressing hope.

Major Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman, offered “heartfelt condolences” to the families of all people involved in the accident and also recognized the heroism of the civilian and military who first reported the mishap.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom over the water and seeing a fireball in the sky, according to CNN affiliate KHON.

Waves of 30 to 40 feet were expected to build by Friday morning, according to CNN-affiliate Hawaii News Now. Maj. Devine informed that the U.S. Coast Guard continued the search for survivors in spite of the dangerous weather conditions. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers, said the two heavy-lift transport helicopters were thought to have crashed late Thursday off the northern shore of Oahu.

Around 11 p.m. (4 a.m. Friday ET), Marine officials informed the Coast Guard about the missing aircraft, which are assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The agency reported that a Coast Guard helicopter arrived shortly after midnight (5 a.m.). An HC-130 search plane is also on the scene and two cutters have been requested. Moreover, the operation is being assisted by the U.S. Navy and Honolulu Fire Department.

The Marines Corps’ website states that it is based on the opposite side of the island from the area where the accident occurred, at Marine Corps Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay.

Less than a year ago, two Marines died as the Marine Corp’s new hybridized airplane-and-helicopter aircraft collided also during a training flight. The MV-22 Osprey went down in May 2015, with 22 crew members on board. And in 2011, a CH-53D Sea Stallion chopper crashed in Kaneohe Bay, killing one serviceman and leaving three others wounded.

Source: Washington Post