US sailors missing in the Philippine Sea identified

By Ray Sanchez and Barbara Starr, CNN

(CNN) -- The US Navy on Saturday identified three sailors who went missing after their plane crashed into the Philippine Sea as Lt. Steven Combs, Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Matthew Chialastri and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso.

The Navy ended the search and rescue mission for the sailors on Thursday. They were aboard a C2-A Greyhound transport plane that crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa a day earlier.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these Sailors," Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet, said in a statement. "Their service and sacrifice will be lasting in Seventh Fleet and we will continue to stand the watch for them, as they did bravely for all of us."

A total of 11 crew and passengers were headed to an aircraft carrier when the plane crashed into the Philippine Wednesday afternoon, the Navy said.

Eight people were rescued and were in good condition aboard the carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy said.

Combs, a native of Florida, was assigned to the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, the Navy said. Chialastri, a Louisiana native, was assigned to Ronald Reagan, as was Grosso, a Florida native.

The aircraft was carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan to the carrier when the plane crashed about 500 nautical miles southeast of Okinawa, Japan.

Seven US Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, three helicopter squadrons and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

"I have been informed from the US military that engine trouble may have caused (the crash)," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Wednesday.

The C2-A that crashed belongs to a Japan-based squadron that generally flies cargo and passengers between shore bases and the USS Ronald Reagan.

It's been a difficult year for the Navy in the western North Pacific after a spate of incidents -- most involving ships assigned to the East Asia-based US 7th fleet -- that included the deaths of 17 sailors.


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