Body of Marine who fell from Osprey found

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 08:54 AM.

Government officials in White Lake and Bladen County did not wish to comment on the search.

Marine Corps officials have not confirmed whether the Marine was wearing a harness at the time of the fall, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Rebecca Gonzalez, 24, of Jacksonville, spent her time in the Marine Corps as an aviation ordnance technician and flew countless hours in a helicopter, the CH-53E Super Stallion, as an aerial observer.

According to Gonzalez, the gunner’s belt, a harness that keeps air crew strapped into helicopters, should have prevented the Marine’s fall.

Safety procedures, she said, include pre-takeoff checklists that ensure that all cargo is strapped down, passengers are seated and wearing harnesses and that the entire crew is wearing gunner’s belts. The belt is anchored to the frame of the helicopter; and if a Marine were to fall out while properly wearing a defect-free belt, he or she would “dangle” from the helicopter, but would not fall to the ground, she said.

 Marines, she said, are allowed to unharness themselves to move about the cabin, but must first notify the pilots to ensure that they do not aggressively maneuver the aircraft, a measure Gonzalez said is to prevent injury within the helicopter or falls from the aircraft.

 “It is not impossible to fall from a helicopter when you are doing crazy banks or if (the helicopter is) on fire because you’d do hard turns,” Gonzalez said. “You could potentially fall out of the aircraft unintentionally, but you would have the gunner’s belt to hold you from falling to the ground. So, while it is possible to fall out, if you’re properly harnessed in, falling to the ground can be prevented.”

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