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Search Continues For Missing Navy Pilot From Santee

The search for Lt. Sean Snyder resumes and expands following a helicopter crash off the coast of Virginia last week.

Image of a MH- 53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery @ Flickr.com - http://goo.gl/5VS3gV
Image of a MH- 53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery @ Flickr.com - http://goo.gl/5VS3gV

By Beth Ford Roth, KPBS

The Navy has expanded search and recovery efforts at the crash site of the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter that went down Jan. 8 off the coast of Virginia. Still missing is Navy Lt. Sean Snyder, 39, of Santee.

Unsafe weather conditions prompted the Navy to temporarily suspend dive operations Jan. 10. Conditions improved Sunday, and the USNS Grasp returned to the crash site that afternoon.

Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 and patrol boats from Riverine Squadron 2 were also on scene, according to a Facebook posting by U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

In addition, according to a Navy news release:

"Sailors from MDSU 2 have expanded the search area and are using a Remus Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) for high-resolution bottom mapping of the crash site."

Two crew members of the downed helicopter died at the hospital after being rescued from the crash site on Jan. 8. They were Lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn, 29, of Greensboro, N.C., and Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) (AWS-3) Brian Andrew Collins, 25, of Truckee, Calif.

Two other rescued crew members were also hospitalized, and have since been released.

As Home Post reported last week, the Navy released a statement on behalf of Lt. Snyder's family which read, in part:

"They wish to express their deepest and sincere gratitude to the many men and women of the United States Navy, The United States Coast Guard, and the City of Virginia Beach Fire & Rescue team who have diligently participated in the rescue efforts. We cannot begin to express our appreciation for their time and sacrifice."

"At this time, our hearts and prayers are for Sean's recovery, the other families who have suffered loss, and for the health of the hospitalized sailors."

The crew of the MH-53E Sea Dragon was all assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, based at Norfolk Naval Station Chambers Field.

The families of the fallen crew members shared their memories with WAVY-TV (see attached video).

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