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U.S. helicopter crew safe after crash

Six crew members from Malaysian flag freighter missing

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter went down near the shore of Skan Bay in Alaska.
Coast Guard

(CNN) -- The crew of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that crashed Wednesday off Alaska's Aleutian Islands is safe, authorities said Thursday.

The helicopter crew was attempting to rescue members from a stranded freighter when it went down.

Authorities said six crew members were missing from the stricken vessel, the Selendang Ayu, which is registered under a Malaysian flag.

The search continued through Wednesday night, using a Coast Guard cutter, said spokesman and Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Roszkowski, and aircraft were used in a first light search about 10 a.m. Thursday.

During the winter, the area only receives a few hours of daylight per day. In addition, the CGC Sherman, a 378-foot-high endurance cutter from Alameda, California, was headed to the scene.

It was estimated, however, that a person could only survive three hours in the 43-degree water, with 17-foot (5.66 meter) seas and winds of 20 knots (23 mph).

Meanwhile, the helicopter crew members were to return to their station in Kodiak, Alaska, Thursday evening. No Coast Guard personnel were seriously injured, authorities said.

The HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter had evacuated 18 members of the 26-member crew from the Selendang Ayu when it went down near Unalaska Island, according to Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Carter.

Two other people who remained aboard the vessel after the helicopter crashed were also rescued, authorities said. The wreckage of the helicopter was located on a beach.

A Coast Guard cutter and tug remained at the scene throughout the night to monitor the wreck of the Selendang Ayu and search for the missing men, according to a Coast Guard statement issued Thursday. Two other civilian vessels were also on scene.

Unalaska Island is part of the Aleutian Islands, about 800 miles (1,280 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Officials said conditions were turbulent at the time of the crash.

The 738-foot-long cargo ship, carrying soybeans from Tacoma to China, lost power to its main engine Tuesday and has since run aground and broken in two on the northern shore of Unalaska Island, near fisheries and a sea lion habitat. The bow was in about 50 to 60 feet (18-20 meters) of water about 200 yards (200 meters) offshore, with the stern on the beach, authorities said.

The ship has 440,000 gallons (1,500 kiloliters) of fuel oil on board and authorities are concerned about a possible spill. The Coast Guard said it had deployed a cutter to respond to the scene to respond to the anticipated spill.

Roszkowski said there were reports of oil in the water, but did not know how much or where it was located.

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