Coast Guard Ends Gulf of Mexico Search, 4 Bodies Recovered

January 5, 2023Noelle Wiehe
US Coast Guard rescuers found only debris from a civilian helicopter crash roughly 10 nautical miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, Dec. 29, 2022. The Coast Guard suspended its search for four passengers. Their bodies were later recovered. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

US Coast Guard rescuers found only debris from a civilian helicopter crash roughly 10 nautical miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, Dec. 29, 2022. The Coast Guard suspended its search for four passengers. Their bodies were later recovered. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The remains of all four passengers from a helicopter that slammed into the Gulf of Mexico and disintegrated last week have been recovered.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Peter Knudson told Coffee or Die Magazine the helicopter’s wreckage was recovered late Monday, Jan. 2. It's been transferred to a secure facility in Baton Rouge while his agency probes the cause of the disaster.

The helicopter’s operators, Rotorcraft Leasing Co., told US Coast Guard watchstanders at 8:34 a.m. on Dec. 29 that a helicopter struck a portion of an oil platform while lifting off, roughly 10 nautical miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta, pitching the aircraft, its pilot, and three passengers into the sea.

The remains of four people were taken to the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office. The names of two deceased Mississippi men have been released — David Scarborough, 36, of Lizana, and Tim Graham, 59, of Quitman.

Gulf of Mexico

US Coast Guard air and boat crews frequently aid oil platform workers in the Gulf of Mexico. Here, an Air Station New Orleans MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew approaches an oil rig platform 189 nautical miles south of Port Fouchon, Louisiana, on Dec. 12, 2022. The crew medevaced a 60-year-old male worker after he experienced what appeared to be a stroke. US Coast Guard photo.

But the identities of the other two crash casualties have not been divulged.

An initial Federal Aviation Administration report indicates they died shortly after a Bell 407 helicopter arrived at the West Delta 106 Platform at 8:19 a.m. on Dec. 29, to retrieve them.

The pilot dropped off four passengers and three others came aboard for a flight to Galliano, Louisiana, but the helicopter crashed moments later.

US Coast Guard District 8 watchstanders scrambled an Air Station New Orleans MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter and a Station Venice 45-foot response boat-medium to search for survivors.

The crews returned just before sunset, without any luck, according to Capt. Greg Callaghan, the deputy commander of US Coast Guard Sector New Orleans.

Gulf of Mexico

Debris from helicopter crash roughly 10 nautical miles miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, bobs in the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 29, 2022. The Coast Guard suspended its search for four passengers on board a downed helicopter. US Coast Guard photo.

They'd canvassed 180 square nautical miles around the platform for eight hours but found only debris.

“It's always a difficult decision,” Callaghan told Coffee or Die. “We certainly would like to have a positive outcome of every case. And, on behalf of the Coast Guard, we'd offer our condolences to the family of all involved in this particular case.”

In a prepared statement sent to Coffee or Die, the US Coast Guard indicated that the response to the incident was a joint effort involving its agency; Walter Oil and Gas, the Houston-based owners of the oil platform; Island Operating Co., the employer of the three lost passengers; Rotorcraft Leasing Co., the helicopter's operator and the employer of the pilot; and regulators at the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

downed helicopter

Coast Guard Avionics Electrical Technician 2nd Class Jacob Scarborough hoists a survivor of a downed helicopter floating in a life raft and then his crew’s two rescue swimmers to a MH-60T Jayhawk as it hovers over the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 15, 2022. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The helicopter is registered to TVPX Aircraft Solutions, an ownership trust service that keeps aviation records confidential. The company doesn’t appear to have been involved in recovery operations.

It was the second Rotorcraft mishap off the coast of Louisiana in two weeks, and the third crash involving the company in 2022.

On Dec. 15, a Rotorcraft Bell 206-L4 helicopter hooked the gate of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 60 nautical miles west of the Dec. 29 crash.

US Coast Guard rescuers found the pilot and two occupants bobbing on the swells in a life raft and flew them to Louisiana for medical care.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, on Jan. 14, 2022, a Rotorcraft Bell 407 helicopter speared into a muddy marsh in Lafourche Parish.

Gulf of Mexico

Investigators pick through the wreckage of a Rotorcraft Leasing Co. Bell Helicopter Model 407 that went down roughly 17 nautical miles east of Houma, Louisiana, in a deltaic coastal marsh on Jan. 14, 2022. It was completely submerged in marsh water and mud, except for the tailboom and some sections of main rotor blade. National Transportation Safety Board photo.

Investigators estimated it was flying at about 1,200 feet, roughly 60 nautical miles southeast of Patterson, Louisiana, when it began to descend.

The remains of the deceased pilot, Dylan Horn, and his sole passenger, Dana Burt, were found amid the debris later that day.

Investigators determined that neither mechanical failure nor malfunction triggered the calamity.

Rotorcraft officials did not respond to Coffee or Die’s messages seeking comment about the latest incidents.

Ross Cunningham, an attorney representing the company, also declined comment, saying the most recent crashes remain under investigation.

Read Next: Pentagon Halts Deliveries of F-35 Strike Fighter Engines

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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