OAHU — Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters with 12 people aboard were missing Friday off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu after an apparent collision, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard was searching for survivors, Marine Maj. Christian Devine said Friday.
Searchers spotted a fire and a debris field, including an empty life raft, about 2½ miles north of Haleiwa Beach, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers.
The aircraft were believed to have collided late Thursday off Oahu’s north shore, Mooers said.
Marine officials contacted the Coast Guard about the missing aircraft around 11 p.m. (4 a.m. Friday ET), Mooers said. A Coast Guard helicopter arrived shortly after midnight (5 a.m. ET), according to the agency.
CNN affiliate KHON in Hawaii reported that witnesses said they heard a loud boom over the water and saw a flash in the sky.
Six people were on board each of the two heavy-lift transport helicopters, according to Mooers.
The Marine Corps tweeted Friday that the missing aircraft are assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, part of the 1st Marine Air Wing. According to the unit’s website, it is stationed at Marine Corps Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay.
In addition to the Coast Guard helicopter, an HC-130 search plane is on scene and two cutters have also been requested, the Coast Guard said.
The U.S. Navy and Honolulu Fire Department are also assisting in the operation, according to the Coast Guard.
Weather could be a factor in the search. Hawaii News Now, a CNN affiliate, reported that waves of 30 to 40 feet are expected Friday.
This story will be updated as we learn more.