The US Navy on Saturday identified the three sailors who were lost after an aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan on Wednesday.
After notifying their families that extensive search and rescue efforts had ended, the Navy identified Lt. Steven Combs, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri, and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso as the lost servicemen.
Eight other personnel were recovered alive following the crash.
Combs, a native of Florida, had embarked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan as part of Carrier Air Wing Five. He'd previously been assigned to the “Greyhawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, the Center for Security Forces Detachment Kittery Point in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Training Wing 4 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He'd been awarded the National Defense Ribbon and the Navy Battle “E” Ribbon.
Chialastri, from Louisiana, was assigned to the Ronald Reagan after serving duty on the USS America, Patrol Squadron Thirty, the “Pro’s Nest,” in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Center for Security Forces Detachment Kittery Point in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He had been awarded the National Defense Ribbon.
Grosso, also of Florida, was assigned to the Ronald Reagan after being stationed at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Florida, and the Naval Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois. His awards included the National Defense Ribbon.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," Rear Adm. Marc Dalton said. "As difficult as this is, we are thankful for the rapid and effective response that led to the rescue of eight of our shipmates, and I appreciate the professionalism and dedication shown by all who participated in the search efforts."
The eight personnel who were recovered following the crash are in a "good condition," according to a statement, and are receiving medical attention on the Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered supercarrier operating in the Philippine Sea.
The C-2 Greyhound aircraft had been on its way to the USS Ronald Reagan when it went down southeast of Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea, at 2:45 p.m. local time Wednesday.
The Navy has not yet confirmed the cause of the crash.
"The aircraft was conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)," the 7th Fleet said in its statement.
Crews searched throughout the night of the crash, covering an area of more than 320 nautical miles. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera confirmed to local reporters that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force had been searching with US forces.
"We received information from US Forces that the cause is possibly engine malfunction," Onodera said.
The incident comes amid a string of accidents involving the Japan-based 7th Fleet, which is comprised of between 50 and 70 ships that cover East Asian waters. It has been conducting exercises in the region in the light of rising tensions with North Korea, most recently carrying out a three-carrier strike exercise between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
In August, the commander of the 7th Fleet was relieved following a series of deadly accidents, including two in-sea collisions involving the US Navy destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, which killed 10 and 7 US sailors, respectively. Last week, the USS Benfold collided with a commercial tug boat that had drifted towards the warship during a towing exercise in Japan's Sagami Bay.