Delegation Calls on Homeland Security Secretary to Request Replacement of the Lost HH-60 Helicopter
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alaska's congressional delegation today wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to request funding to replace the recently lost HH-60 helicopter from Air Station Sitka.
The request comes in the wake of the recent HH-60 crash in which three Coast Guard personnel were killed. The crew and helicopter were based in Sitka. The crash occurred in waters near James Island near La Push, Washington. The Alaska congressional delegation extends their condolences and prayers to the families of Lt. Sean Krueger of Seymour, Conn.; Adam Hoke of Great Falls, Mont.; and Brett M. Banks of Rock Springs, Wyo.
In their letter, the delegation cited the vast amount of coastline and waters that the Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling and the Guard's emergency assistance mission as reasons for funding a replacement helicopter.
"Alaska has more coastline than any other state in the nation. Air Stations Kodiak and Sitka aircrews are responsible for over 5 million square miles of the Alaskan coastline and they cover this vast region with only seven HH-60 helicopters," the delegation wrote. "The loss of a helicopter from Air Station Sitka reduces the ability of the Coast Guard to respond to maritime emergencies and places Alaska's commercial and recreational boating public at increased risk."
The Coast Guard has said it will temporarily shift a helicopter to Sitka from the Lower 48, but the delegation argued that moving a chopper from another location will only create an additional resource gap elsewhere. The delegation is requesting that DHS fund a new helicopter.