The U.S. Navy has named the three sailors lost in Wednesday’s C-2A aircraft crash southeast of Okinawa, Japan in the Philippine Sea.
In a statement, the Navy identified Lt. Steven Combs, of Florida; Matthew Chialastri, an aviation boatswain’s mate airman from Louisiana and Bryan Grosso, an aviation ordnanceman airman apprentice, also from Florida.
Over the course of his service, Combs won the National Defense Service Medal and the Navy Battle “E” Ribbon, the Navy said. The Berkshire Eagle reports he was 28 years-old and a graduate of St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield, Mass.
Chialastri was the 2013 valedictorian of his graduating high school class in Baton Rouge, The New York Times reports. “He was dependable, he was loyal,” said Sgt. First Class Jill Pearl who taught him at Woodlawn High School’s Junior R.O.T.C. program. “He could handle any situation that you put him in. And it just looked like he did it with such ease,” she told the Times.
Grosso enlisted in the Navy soon after graduating from West Florida High School in 2017. “He was a really good kid,” his lacrosse coach Justin Luciano told The Pensacola News Journal. “Every time I saw him in the hallways, he was laughing, joking, having fun. There was always a smile on his face.”
With help from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Navy spent two days looking for the sailors over some 1,000 square nautical miles, using ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, before calling off the search on Friday.
“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.”
The C2-A Greyhound was bringing cargo and passengers to the USS Ronald Reagan from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni when it went down some 500 nautical miles southeast of Okinawa Wednesday afternoon.
Eight other sailors on board were rescued the day of the crash and reported to be in good condition.
It is the latest in a series of mishaps for what has proved to be a difficult year for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, based in Japan. In June, the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship collided off the coast of Japan, leaving seven sailors dead. Two months later, 10 sailors died when the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided in the waters off Singapore.
The cause of Wednesday’s crash remains under investigation.
“The entire Navy team is working together to investigate the cause of this mishap and we will remain focused on our mission to operate forward in a safe and professional manner to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Capt. Michael Wosje, Commander of Carrier Air Wing Five.