Remains of missing Navy pilot whose helicopter crashed off the coast of Virginia recovered

Sean Christopher Snyder was Santee native

SAN DIEGO - The remains of missing Navy pilot Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder -- whose helicopter crashed in the ocean off the Virginia coast last week -- have been recovered, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Navy divers from the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, operating aboard USNS Grasp, located the helicopter's cockpit late Monday using a remotely operated vehicle and found the remains in the wreckage, according to a press release issued by the Navy on Tuesday evening.

Salvage operations were suspended late Monday evening due to weather conditions. Recovery efforts resumed early Tuesday.

Snyder, a Santee native, was among five sailors aboard the MH-53E Sea Dragon that crashed for unknown reasons around 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to a statement released by Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic.

Within an hour of the crash, the other four sailors were found floating near the wreckage and hoisted from 42-degree waters. Two survived and were taken to a hospital, and two died.

The deceased were identified as Lt. Wesley Van Dorn, 29, of Greensboro, N.C., and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Andrew Collins, 25, of Truckee. Van Dorn, like Snyder, was a pilot on the flight and Collins, a crewman.

A memorial service for the three crewmembers killed in the crash is being planned for Friday at Naval Station Norfolk.

The Snyder family released the following statement:

"Divers have recovered the remains of Lt. Sean Snyder. The family is truly thankful to the men and women of the United States Navy. Sean was a man of honor and a true hero, not only to his country, but also to his wife, children, family, and friends. Our strength and trust remain in Christ."

The aircraft was part of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen based at Naval Station Norfolk.

The Sea Dragon is 99 feet long, weighs up to 34 tons and holds up to two pilots and six crew members. It is typically used for heavy lifting, including the towing of a heavy piece of equipment that is used in mine clearing operations. The Navy said the crash occurred during a routine training exercise for mine countermeasures.

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