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Williamsburg Marine among seven who died in Florida helicopter crash

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Posted at 3:21 PM, Mar 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-13 15:48:41-04

Eglin, Fl. – NewsChannel 3 has learned that a Marine from Williamsburg was among the seven servicemembers who died when a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter crashed near Eglin Florida on Tuesday.

According to marines.mil, the  Marine was 33-year-old Master Sgt. Thomas A. Saunders.

The accident happened at 8:30 p.m. on March 10th.

“(The crash is) a reminder to us that those who serve put themselves at risk, both in training and in combat,” Dempsey said from Washington. “We will work with the services to ensure that … their family members will be well cared for.”

The Black Hawk was first reported missing during foggy conditions at about 8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. ET) Tuesday. Hours later, searchers found debris around Okaloosa Island near Eglin, base spokesman Andy Bourland said. This debris washed up on both the north and south sides of Santa Rosa Sound, which connects mainland northern Florida and a barrier island.

The Air Force, Coast Guard and civilian agencies participated in the intensive search focused on where they believe the aircraft went down, in waters east of the town of Navarre and the Navarre Bridge and near Eglin testing range site A-17.

Those efforts were helped by the rising sun, but not the shrouding fog, according to Eglin spokeswoman Sara Vidoni.

“We’re working closely with all the parties involved to locate our Marines and the Army crew that were onboard,” added Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for the U.S. Marines Corps Special Operations Command. “And, really, just our thoughts (and) prayers are with the Marines, the soldiers and the families of those involved in the mishap.”