Salvage expert explains what’s needed to recover downed Marine helicopters


(KHON) – How difficult will it be to salvage two downed CH-53E heavy-lift transport helicopters in waters off Oahu’s North Shore?

During five days of searching, crews located crash debris as well as helicopter wreckage on the ocean floor, two miles offshore in about 325 feet of water.

The head of Parker Marine Towing and Salvage says the job won’t be easy, but very doable, especially with the Marines in charge of the operation.

Michael Parker says his company is called on average three to five times a month, usually by private boat owners or the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, to deal with boats that wind up on the reef or at the bottom of the ocean.

Parker says while he doesn’t deal with salvage operations at this type of depth, the mission should be a success.

“It’s costly because it’s on the North Shore, so there’s swells and there’s currents,” he told KHON2, “but it’s definitely possible and it’s done on a regular basis around the world.”

While remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, will likely be deployed, Parker says specially trained divers can go to 300, even 400 feet with the proper equipment.

But, he guesses, it will be the ROVs that will help set the stage for the heavy lifting.

“They can use ROVs to go down and hook cables to the aircraft and then crane it out and they have those types of ships in Pearl Harbor. They can bring it around, and crane it up. That would be one way,” he said.

In addition to the currents, Parker says the wind, high seas and coral reefs could all add to the degree of difficulty. But, he notes, the U.S. Navy as well as the Marines have global contracts with companies trained for this very type of work.

“It’s a unique and special operation, that’s correct,” he said. “If they want to recover it, they will.”

It’s not clear at this point what type of equipment the military already has at its disposal here in the islands.

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