NAVARRE, Fla. (MEDIA GENERAL) – Weather permitting, the search for seven Marines and four soldiers presumed to have died when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed will resume Thursday.
The search for remains has been hampered by fog. The Black Hawk crashed Tuesday night in the Santa Rosa Sound along the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise.
Hundreds of people attended a solemn candlelit vigil Wednesday night on a pier jutting into the Gulf of Mexico. The emotional ceremony capped a difficult day for communities with strong ties to the military.
Military officials haven’t said what caused the crash, but the weather was bad enough for another helicopter on the training run to return to land.
The military has not yet officially released the names of the Marines and soldiers onboard. However, some family members have been notified. Here is what we know so far:
Gannett Louisiana is reporting David Strother was one of four Louisiana National Guardsmen serving onboard the Black Hawk that crashed. Strother had attended Pineville High School in Louisiana. He’s a pilot who served overseas tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Gannett Louisiana.
The Holland Sentinel reports another member of the crew was U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif from Holland, Michigan.
WOOD TV reports military members who were at the family’s Holland home Wednesday said that Seif’s status was “unknown.” When asked why they were at the home if Seif’s status was unclear, they said it was because there was a “possibility” he may have been on the helicopter.
“I know he’s a very humble Marine; very soft spoken,” MARSOC public affairs officer Capt. Barry Morris said of Seif in a phone interview.
“Loved his family, loved his country and loved the Marine Corps.”
Seif, 27, accepted the Silver Star on Friday. It’s the military’s third-highest honor. During a tour in Afghanistan in 2012, Seif and Sgt.
Justin Hansen came under fire while seeking out a bomb maker. Hansen was wounded. Seif cared for his fellow Marine and carried out the mission alone, killing the bomb maker, before returning to help Hansen. At times, Seif even shielded Hansen with his own body. Still,
Hansen died as a result of his injuries.
Seif was also named the 2013 Marine of the Year for the same act that earned him the Silver Star. “He’s certainly a hero in my eyes,”
Capt. Morris said. “I deeply respect him for his actions and what he’s done for our country.”
Seif accepted his Silver Star on behalf of his team and Hansen’s family. He also spoke about caring for the families of fallen Marines.
“Make sure you remember those families out there. Contact them, let them know they’re still part of the family. I appreciate it,” Seif said.
The Macomb Daily is reporting former Warren, Michigan, resident Marcus Bawol may have also died in the helicopter crash. Bawol was engaged to Erika Lynn Hipple, formerly of Sterling Heights, and the two planned to marry in October, her family told The Macomb Daily.
The paper reports Erika Hipple met Bawol while she was attending Warren Cousino High School and he was a student at Warren-Mott High School. They continued a long-distance relationship as she sought a career as a teacher and he went into the military. In addition to his fiancee, Bawol is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.