SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - As five families mourn the loss of the five Navy sailors killed off of San Diego’s coast, a nonprofit called The Wingman Foundation is stepping up to help support the grieving families while also paying tribute to the sailors.
The Navy said an MH-60S helicopter was conducting routine flight operations from the USS Abraham Lincoln on Tuesday, Aug. 31, when it crashed into the sea around 4:30 p.m. The helicopter reportedly touched down on the flight deck and "experienced side-to-side vibrations" that caused the main rotor to strike the deck and fall over the side of the aircraft carrier, according to a mishap summary by the U.S. Navy’s Safety Center.
One of the six sailors on board the helicopter was rescued and survived.
The five killed include Lt. Bradley A. Foster (29), a pilot from Oakhurst, California, Lt. Paul R. Fridley (28), a pilot from Annandale, Virginia, Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class James P. Buriak (31), from Salem, Virginia, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns (31), from Severna Park, Maryland and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey J. Tucker (21), from St. Louis, Missouri.
The Wingman Foundation is now stepping in to help the grieving families of the five killed. The Wingman Foundation is a veteran-founded nonprofit run by veterans and military spouses, providing post-mishap support to families of fallen aviators.
The group accepts donations for the families then gives 100% of the funds raised back to them.
In addition, whenever there is a mishap, they partner with Jack Hinton, owner of USMCPatches.com, to create a memorial patch in memory of those lost, then sell the patch on this website and donate 100% of proceeds to the families.
The funds raised for the families can help with anything from flights to funeral arrangements.
“Our tagline is ‘never leave a wingman behind’ and that truly is the heart of this foundation and what they do,” said Kiley Frederick-Bult, Director of Communication for The Wingman Foundation.
The patch for these sailors has their names listed around the circumference, with gold stars in between each name in honor of the families. They're the HSC-8 Eightballers, so there is a ball and chain in the middle with angel wings to represent that they have fallen. The date of the crash, Aug. 31, is also on the patch.
Frederick-Bult is also a Gold Star Wife, so she understands this pain. Her husband was killed when his jet went down in 2016, leaving her with their three-year-old son, and she was also eight and a half months pregnant.
She’s been in the shoes of these families and said the nonprofit’s guidance through the difficult time was crucial.
“When I think about those families that are affected right now and going through the unimaginable, even though it’s going to work out and they’re going to be okay, in that immediate aftermath you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills. Even though they’re going to be fine and the Marine Corps and the Navy they take care of the families, you don’t know how you’re going to send your kids to college, you don’t know how your life is going to look, you thought it was going to look a certain way,” she said.
Frederick-Bult said the patches not only financial support the families, but are a way to honor and pay tribute to the fallen sailors. When her husband passed away, seeing people wearing the patches around their town was an overwhelming feeling.
“People ask about the patches and what it is and it’s an opportunity that we can say the names because the names are on the patches of these fallen heroes, and we also can tell their stories,” she said.