Matthew Renda
mrenda@tahoedailytribune.com

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September 24, 2010
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Navy investigating helicopter dip into Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Two U.S. Navy helicopters temporarily descended into the waters of Lake Tahoe, sustaining damage, before salvaging themselves and landing at nearby Lake Tahoe Airport, according to naval officials.

Lt. Aaron Kakiel, media officer for the Naval Air Forces command at North Island in San Diego, Calif., confirmed a YouTube video filmed by tourists represents authentic footage of the incident.

Two unidentified Navy pilots were on the return leg of a cross-country tour on Sept. 13 when they attempted to maneuver their MH-60 Romeo helicopters into a "hover" a few feet above the water in Emerald Bay, Kakiel said.

The aircrafts did not have sufficient power to sustain the hover, and slowly descended into the water, before summoning enough power to regain altitude and land at nearby Lake Tahoe Airport. No one was injured in the incident, Kakiel said.

Two helicopters were parked on the airport ramp for two to four days, according to Lake Tahoe Airport Director Sherry Miller.

Kakiel said no fuel leaked into Lake Tahoe as a result of the incident.

Tahoe Resource Conservation District workers, who were conducting an aquatic invasive species experiment in Emerald Bay just days after the incident occurred, did not report a sheen on the lake surface would indicate a fuel spill, according to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Spokesman Jeff Cowen.

"We've had no reports of a fuel leak," said Cowen. "(The agency) is willing to investigate further."

Kakiel said the damages the aircraft incurred during the incident were repaired at Lake Tahoe Airport and the helicopters were returned to San Diego on Sept. 16.

The Navy has classified the incident as a "Class C Mishap," which signifies an incident that caused more than $50,000 and less than $500,000.

The helicopters are worth $33 million, according to the Navy website.

The Navy is conducting an investigation into the entire incident, attempting to assess whether the pilots' actions was in concert with applied instructions or the flight plan, said Kakiel.

"The incident is not typical," he said.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that both pilots have been grounded until the investigation is complete and they could face administrative action - and even lose their flying qualifications - depending on the outcome.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 24, 2010 07:43PM Published Sep 24, 2010 06:48PM Copyright 2010 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.