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Body of Missing Santee Navy Pilot Recovered by Divers

A memorial service for Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder, 39, is planned for Friday at Naval Station Norfolk.

Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder - Credit: US Navy
Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder - Credit: US Navy

The remains of a Navy pilot from Santee who perished when his helicopter crashed off the coast of Virginia Beach a week ago was recovered Tuesday by a team of Navy divers.

Lt. Sean Christopher Snyder, 39, was among five sailors aboard the MH- 53E Sea Dragon that crashed for unknown reasons around 11 a.m. Jan. 8, 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. All four were taken to a hospital, where two died and two were treated and released.

The Coast Guard and the Navy searched a roughly 500-square-mile area around the crash site by air and sea for more than 30 hours before calling off the active search for Snyder at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Coast Guard.

Late Monday, Navy drivers using an underwater remote control vehicle spotted Snyder's remains among the sunken wreckage but were unable to retrieve the remains due to bad weather. Early Tuesday, recovery efforts resumed and divers recovered his remains, according to the Navy.

In a statement, the Snyder family said it was "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 others killed in the Jan. 8 crash 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 Snyder, Von Dorn and Collins was being planned for Friday at Naval Station Norfolk.

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 last week's crash occurred during a routine training exercise for mine countermeasures.

-City News Service

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