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Second Airlift Northwest crew member found

The Navy suspended its search earlier this week for the last victim of the Airlift Northwest helicopter that crashed near Edmonds late last month.

Still missing are the remains of one of the three victims.

The remains of one of the missing crew from the Airlift Northwest helicopter crash in Brown's Bay was recovered Saturday. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office identified Stephen Smith as the second victim recovered. Although search efforts continued through the weekend, the third victim was not recovered.

In the hours following the crash, searchers found flight nurse Erin Reed's body in the waters off Edmonds.

Pilot Steve Smith of Clinton, Reed and fellow flight nurse Lois Suzuki were killed in the crash of Airlift Four. They were returning from Harbvorview Medical Center where they delivered a critically ill patient to their home base in Arlington.

While Reed's body was recovered soon after the crash, the remains of the second victim were found among the wreckage recovered at the bottom of Puget Sound in 530 feet of water.

The Navy began its search and recovery operation at the request of the National Transportation Safety Board and the insurance carrier for the owner of the aircraft, CJ Systems Aviation in Mifflin, Penn.

The Navy vessel, the Battlepoint, was dispatched from its home base in Keyport to help find the victims of the crash and wreckage from the Agusta A109/Mark II twin-engine helicopter.

The Battlepoint is equipped with special sonar and a "remote- operated vehicle" that is used to find the location of the wreckage and then retrieve it from the bottom.

The crew of the Battlepoint used the remote operated vehicle, or ROV, to bring up the remains of the second victim and pieces of the helicopter from the bottom of the Puget Sound.

Sgt. Jeff Jones, spokesman for Edmonds Police Department, who was on the Navy boat Friday, said crew members found the crash site on the first pass about 5:30 p.m. Friday. Within two hours, the ROV was at the crash site more than 500 feet below the surface of the water.

"Although every effort was made, the remains of the third helicopter crew member were not located in the vicinity of the crash debris field," he said.

"The primary purpose of the mission was to recover the crew members and enough of the helicopter for the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB to investigate the cause of the crash," Jones said.

Portions of the helicopter including the tail section, engine, rotor blade, hub and cockpit have been retrieved.

"The condition of the cockpit was severely compromised," Jones said.

Smaller pieces of the aircraft washed ashore on Whidbey Island and an equipment bag was found near Port Townsend.

Jones said it is hoped that enough of the craft has been recovered to at least rule out some causes for the crash.

Jones said helicopters that carry less than 16 passengers are not required to carry a "black box," or flight data recorder.

The NTSB and the insurance carrier for the aircraft have no immediate plan to resume the search and recovery mission, but the possibility has not been ruled out.

The cost of the search is being born by the insurance company for the aircraft owner.

In similar situations over the past 10 years at the request of government agencies, the Navy has used its resources to locate and recover aircraft from Puget Sound, including the other Airlift Northwest helicopter that crashed in 1995 near Bainbridge Island.

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