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Pilot identified in U.S. Marine helicopter that went missing on Nepal earthquake mission

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U.S. military participate in a search and rescue mission out of the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, May 13. A UH-1Y Huey helicopter assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers, went missing while conducting humanitarian assistance after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday. Credit: US Dept of Defense

U.S. military participate in a search and rescue mission out of the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, May 13. A UH-1Y Huey helicopter assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers, went missing while conducting humanitarian assistance after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday. Credit: US Dept of Defense

By Sugam Pokharel, Sumnima Udas and Michael Martinez

CNN

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — The pilot of the U.S. Marine helicopter that went missing on a earthquake relief mission in Nepal was Capt. Chris Norgren of Wichita, Kansas, according to his father, Ron, who spoke to reporters Friday.

“He loved to fly, and he went through rigorous training sessions at Camp Pendleton,” the father said, referring to the Marine facility in Southern California.

The helicopter carrying six U.S. Marines and two Nepali service members has been found, but there are likely no survivors, U.S. Defense officials said.

“He loved to help people,” the father added. “Faith is going to pull my wife and I through this.”

“I know in my heart that Chris is doing what he wanted to do,” his mother, Terri, said. “I am so proud of everything he has done and accomplished. I still believe in my heart that there might be some hope out there.”

Added the father: “But we both know it doesn’t look too good.”

Capt. Norgren loved to play football in high school in Wichita and in college at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, where in the 2007 yearbook he was listed as freshman defensive lineman at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, his father said.

While in school, Capt. Norgren was an overachiever. “If he got a B or a C, he was upset,” the father said.

He joined the Marines to become a pilot, the father said.

The 31-year-old Marine enjoyed helping people, his mother said.

“That’s what he was doing: He was serving the families and he was serving the people who needed help out there,” the mother said. “Chris loved life.”

Helicopter found

U.S. Defense officials confirmed Friday that the helicopter has been located.

“It is unlikely there are any survivors at this time,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general on the ground in Nepal, and said he was unable to confirm the report from the Nepalese government, that three bodies had been discovered.

Three bodies were discovered in the burned wreckage of the helicopter, which was delivering aid to earthquake survivors, Nepalese Defense Secretary Ishwori Paudyal said.

Wissler said that due to the harsh conditions of the region, he was calling off the search for the evening. Wissler said the deaths would not affect the U.S. Marine mission to the Nepalese region to assist with aid following a series of deadly earthquakes.

The American chopper was spotted in the Gorthali area, at an altitude of 11,200 feet (3,400 meters), said Nepalese Brig. Gen. Binoj Basnet. Its discovery follows intensive searches from the air and on foot, amid treacherous terrain.

The U.S. Joint Task Force confirmed the wreckage, 8 miles north of Charikot, was that of the missing UH-1Y Huey helicopter. It has not yet commented on the reported discovery of bodies.

Four pararescuemen and one combat rescue officer were on the ground, the Joint Task Force statement said. “The assessment of the site is ongoing and a thorough investigation will be conducted,” it said.

The helicopter lost contact Tuesday evening as it helped with relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, Pentagon officials said.

Radio transmissions indicated its crew was having some type of fuel problem before it went missing near Charikot, roughly 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of the capital of Kathmandu.

The helicopter was delivering humanitarian aid after the devastating earthquake that struck the nation on April 25, killing thousands of people. Another strong earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday afternoon, causing more damage and casualties.

The area where it lost contact is near the epicenter of Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake.

About 300 American personnel are on the ground in Nepal helping with earthquake relief efforts.

The death toll from the two earthquakes is now 8,460, Nepal’s Home Ministry said Friday, of which 117 are from Tuesday’s quake.

Another 6,271 people are still receiving medical treatment, of whom 1,700 were injured in the second quake.

CNN’s Sugam Pokharel reported from Kathmandu and Sumnima Udas from New Delhi, while Michael Martinez wrote in Los Angeles. Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN’s Sarita Harilela, Manesh Shrestha, and Ed Payne contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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1 Comment

  • Terrazzo

    The four PJ’s (Pararescue) are the best of the best in the Air Force. I figured they dropped in to see if there were people to save. Proud to be an American and proud to have served with and known many PJ’s.

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