Calif. searchers scour seas after Pacific air collision

A Coast Guard air crew from San Diego searches the waters east of San Clemente Island on Friday for survivors of Thursday’s collision.

U.S. Coast Guard

A Coast Guard air crew from San Diego searches the waters east of San Clemente Island on Friday for survivors of Thursday’s collision.

SAN DIEGO — Rescuers are still searching for survivors from a midair crash between Marine Corps and Coast Guard aircraft, a top commander said Saturday afternoon, as families of the nine military members lost in the Pacific nearly two days ago held out hope their loved ones would be found alive.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo said that there was a chance of life because the missing crew members could have been wearing dry suits and were in excellent physical condition.

"We continue until there is no more hope. We don't ever want to suspend the case prematurely, when there may be someone out there," Castillo said. "But hope gets less every day.."

Jennifer Wiegandt Seidman said she hopes her husband, Chief Petty Officer John Seidman, was wearing the thermal protective gear when he entered the chilly Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, where water temperatures have hovered in the lower 60s. Seidman is a flight engineer with a 23-year career in the Coast Guard.

"I don't want to let my mind go to thinking the worst," Jennifer Wiegandt Seidman said from the couple's home in Carmichael, Calif. "John knows what he's doing, and he's fit and he's very smart."

Six Coast Guard cutters, three Navy ships and multiple helicopters were searching 644 square miles of ocean, but rescuers were concentrating on a debris field 50 miles off the San Diego coast. Rescuers have found debris from both aircraft, but there was no sign of the crew members or their bodies.

Castillo said Saturday afternoon that the mission was still considered search and rescue, not search and recovery.

Thursday's crash involved a Coast Guard C-130 with a seven-member crew and a two-person Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra that was flying in formation near the Navy's San Clemente Island.

Calif. searchers scour seas after Pacific air collision 10/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 11:57pm]

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