UPDATE: ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. — The body of a Marine who fell from an MV-22 Osprey aircraft Monday evening during a training flight near White Lake was recovered Tuesday evening after an exhaustive search by more than 1,000 military and law enforcement personnel.
The name of the man, who served in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, will not be released until 24 hours aftr relatives are notified.
"I'd like to extend my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of our Marine," said Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. "I also want to extend my thanks to the community for their tireless efforts throughout this search. Without your cooperation, we could not have brought closure to this phase of such an unfortunate incident."
Military service members and authorities from Bladen and Sampson counties slogged through marshy forests Tuesday in search of the man, whose body was found shortly before 6 p.m. on a blueberry farm in the northeastern part of Bladen County.
The accident occurred about 6:30 p.m. Monday some 45 miles west of Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, where the Osprey is based, on a return flight from Elizabethtown.
Marine Lt. Col. Christian Harshberger said the Marine, who was a crew chief with his unit, was accounted for when the Osprey left the airport in Elizabethtown, but he disappeared from the back of the aircraft sometime during the 35-minute flight.
Cargo doors are usually open throughout training flights, officials said.
"It was just some routine operation we do every day with hundreds of aircraft throughout eastern North Carolina," Marine spokesman First Sgt. Hector Alejandro said.
Crews searched for the Marine late Monday and returned at daybreak Tuesday.
Phoebe Campbell, a junior at North Carolina State University who recently returned home for the summer, said she was surprised to see a military command post across the street from her house.
"The roads have been blocked off. We can’t get (my sisters) to school or work," Campbell said. "The helicopters have been loud through the night."
Hundreds of Marines were bused in to assist with the ground search in the dense woods and swamps, and helicopters and Ospreys from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and search-and-rescue helicopters from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point were scanning the area from the air, Marine spokesman Michael Barton said.
"Our primary goal is to make sure we find this missing Marine," Alejandro said during the search. "We’re prepared to stay here as long as it takes."
The Osprey was flying at varying speeds and altitudes while returning to New River, Harshberger said, so investigators reviewed the flight data to help narrow the search area to 5 to 10 square miles.
Investigators also checked to see if cellphone towers in the area picked up a signal from the missing Marine's phone, Alejandro said.
"This is something that affects all of us. Anytime a Marine is missing, we’re worried," he said.
Not many details at this time but according to news reports from WECT - crews are combing through wooded areas in Bladen County, searching for a United States Marine who reportedly fell from an Osprey aircraft during a nighttime exercise.
The V-22 Osprey is made at the Bell/Boeing Textron plant in Amarillo, Texas. According to news reports the Osprey was attached to the Marine Air Station, New River, Jacksonville NC.
The Air Station was the first Marine Corps base with the new MV-22 Osprey. It has the ability to fly like a plane, and take off and land like a helicopter. The MV-22 has replaced all of the CH-46E Sea Knightson the east coast with the exception of HMX-1 and HMM-774. Currently there are six operational Osprey squadrons, VMM-261, VMM-263, VMM-162, VMM-365, VMM-264, and VMM-266.
TIME: 8:11 PM