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UPDATE: Victims of Navy helicopter crash identified; name of missing pilot released

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Virginia Beach, Va. - The Coast Guard has suspended their search for a missing crewmember from a Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon that crashed off of Virginia Beach on Wednesday. The Navy continues efforts to recover the missing crewmember and wreckage.

The Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU 2) divers went into the water at 5 p.m. Thursday to search for the missing crewmember.

The family of the crewmember requested that officials release his name late Thursday.


Lt. Sean Snyder

He has been identified as 39-year-old Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder from Santee, California.

The following statement was released on behalf of his family:

They wish to express their deepest and sincere gratitude to the many men and women of the United States Navy, The United States Coast Guard, and the City of Virginia Beach Fire & Rescue team who have diligently participated in the rescue efforts. We cannot begin to express our appreciation for their time and sacrifice.

At this time, our hearts and prayers are for Sean’s recovery, the other families who have suffered loss, and for the health of the hospitalized sailors.

Lieutenant Sean Snyder is a decorated pilot, a man of honor, dedicated husband, and father, who is proud and grateful for his privilege to serve his country in the United States Navy.

The family has a deep faith and trust in God and from him they have found their hope and peace. The Snyder’s are extremely grateful for the love and support they have received from their friends and their community. They truly appreciate your continued prayers.

Two of the five crewmembers died from injuries sustained in the crash, two more were hospitalized.

The two crew members who died in the crash have been identified as 25-year-old Petty Officer Brian Andrew Collins of Truckee, California and 29-year-old Lt. J. Wesley Van Dorn of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Lt. Van Dorn, a Navy pilot, has been in the Navy for six years, seven months. AWS-3 Collins, served for two years, two months.

Click here to read a statement from Lt. Van Dorn's family

One of the hospitalized victims was released on Thursday. The other remains hospitalized but the Navy says he is doing well and are hopeful that he will be released as early as tomorrow.

The two pilots and three aircrew are all members of Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron Fourteen (HM-14) based at Naval Station Norfolk's Chambers Field.

The Coast Guard says they have worked with the Navy to conduct a search lasting over 30 hours and covering an area of the Atlantic spanning 500 miles.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the Coast Guard search has been suspended, but the Coast Guard will remain on scene with the Navy to continue assisting them.

Assisting in the search were the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat Shearwater, Guided Missile Destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), the salvage vessel USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51), the Amphibious Transport Dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19), and the dry cargo ship USNS Medgar Evans.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, along with several other MH-60s from Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadrons Two (HSC-2) and Twenty Eight (HSC-28) have also assisted.

Also on scene are dive boats manned with Navy divers and side-scan sonar from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU-2) from JEB Little Creek Fort Story.

Late Wednesday, the Navy said Virginia Beach Fire Department boats located the aircraft fuselage and tail section using their side-scan radar. They announced Thursday that remotely operated vehicles diving on the potential sites of tail and fuselage sections confirmed location of the wreckage. The depth of the water where the wreckage was found is approximately 67 feet deep.

The Sea Dragon was performing routine airborne mine countermeasure training operations with another MH-53E when it had to make an emergency water landing. A life raft was dropped by the other helicopter and a distress call was made at approximately 10:45 a.m.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Video: Officials hold press conference after fatal Navy helicopter crash
Beach Fire and Police assist Navy, Coast Guard in searches after Navy helicopter crash
Video: Navy helicopter crash weather conditions
Cell phone video shows injured crew members arrived at Sentara Norfolk General
Rescued sailors from Navy helicopter crash taken to Sentara Norfolk General
Search crews use side scanning sonar to look for missing crewmember
Navy continues to search for missing crewmember after helo crash


  • scott

    very sad . These men have lost their lives serving our country. My deepest condolences to his Family friends loved ones crew members. I would like to wish a speedy recovery for the surviving crew members.

  • Helene

    My heart goes out to the families, squadron and rescuers of this accident. I know all to well the pain you are enduring and pray for you all, May God comfort you and strengthen you for the road ahead.
    HM-15 widow

  • Brenda Reiver

    Thanks are giving to ALL the men & women that serve our country everyday. My heart goes out to the families of the ones that were injured and also the ones that lost their lives in the horrific helicopter crash here in Va. yesterday. May you have the help and strength to get through this difficult time.

  • Clarissa Flennien

    I personally know the one they are searching for. Can’t reveal his name but am asking for prayer. His family have all gone to VB to be there and arg waiting for word.

    • Helene

      Please extend my prayers to the family, my husband was killed in San Francisco 25 years ago on the same type helicopter. I have added this to our prayer chain as I know the agony they are going through. May this turn out better for them!!
      Sending strength and prayers!

  • Helene

    At this point they believe he could not survive this long in the water. They will still try to find him, it took them 3 weeks to find my husband but they never gave up and they brought him home to me.
    Very sad for the families and friends; words can not express but my prayers are with you all!

  • Mrs. Robert Lee Long CDR USN (Ret)

    I’m a Navy Wife of 24 years and our son served on the USCG Shearwater. I know both Navy and Coast Guard are heart-broken to suspend the search and recuse efforts for our fall’n Sailor. But I also know both Services will continue every effort to recover him with honor. This has been a terrible event but both Duty and Training kicked in when it mattered. God Speed to men and women who work Land, Sea, & Air. You make us proud!

  • Bill Heald

    To Sean’s family,and his father Craig, All of your Sanger, California Families are praying for you. Betty , Russel, Everett Lee, Eddie, Richard, Mitzi, Pablo, Ryne and Bill

    • Jean

      Thank you Bill Heald…I am part of the Santee family, Craig is my brother-in-law. May God give peace and love to this family.

  • Amy

    Wow Hank, you have no idea what these men, women, and their families go through on a daily basis. True it’s a choice, but so is your disgusting, unthankful attitude.

  • Kyle

    It’s because of them you are free to voice your opinion. My thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their families. Thank you all for your service to our country so everyone is able to enjoy the freedom the men and women of our uniformed services protect everyday.

  • Really sad

    WOW Hank I bet you sit around and either collect welfare. How ignorant of you to make such a comment. Without these men and women you wouldn’t be able to speak your mind and have the freedom you have. You need to check yourself because Karma will get you!

  • scott

    oh Hank apparently you’ve never given service to your country maybe you should select another country to live in since you cannot support the men and women who defend our country against enemies . you really sound like 1 sour grape I really dont understand people like you .

  • Tom Mason

    My family and I would like to send our condolences and prayers to the families of the crew of the HM-14 MH-53E that went down on Wednesday. In 1976 I reported to HM-14, which makes me a Plank Owner. I was a crewman also with 2,200 flight hours. My heart breaks for these crew members! Flight crews, please be careful with solid preflights. May God be with you all, as we conduct our minesweeping!

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