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Coast Guardsman charged in La Push helicopter crash

Coast Guard Memorial

Chris Cook Photo

Coast Guardsmen salute during the laying of wreaths from a Coast Guard surf rescue boat by a representative of the Quileute Nation garbed in Quileute regalia at the mouth of the Quillayute River on Sunday morning, July 11. The wreath ceremony was part of a healing and memorial service held at a site overlooking the rivermouth at LaPush by the Quileute Tribal Council and the Coast Guard. The three Coast Guardsmen lost their lives there in a helicopter crash at the river mouth on Wednesday, July 7, and the one crewmember surviving. and their families, were remembered and prayed for at the service. A video of the event is being sent to the home base of the helicopter crew in Sitka, Alaska. 

Coast Guard Lt. Lance Leone is now facing felony criminal charges related to the July 2010 helicopter crash near James Island at La Push. Leone is based in Sitka, Alaska.

Leone was the sole survivor of four crewmen aboard the newly-refitted helicopter which struck Coast Guard-owned power lines strung from the shore at First Beach at La Push out to James Island. The Coast Guard investigation report on the crash is still not released. The aircraft was on a flight from the Coast Guard station at Astoria, Ore. to Sitka and attempted to make an unscheduled detour to La Push during the flight.

The Coast Guard’s charges against Leone include failure to fly above 500 feet along the coast, and for destruction of the $18.3 million Coast Guard helicopter, and in the deaths of two of the crewmen. He is not charged in the death of the pilot of the aircraft.

Leone is fighting the charges and collections to a legal defense fund are being taken in Sitka.

A thorough public radio broadcast report and transcript from station KCAW-FM is available here online.

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