VIRGINIA BEACH -- Family and friends are mourning the loss of two sailors killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise off Va. Beach on Wednesday.
29-year-old Lt. J. Wesley Van Dorn of Greensboro, North Carolina and 25-year-old PO 3rd Class Brian Andrew Collins of Truckee, California initially survived the crash of the MH-53E Sea Dragon. They died at the hospital later that day.
Cheyenne Collins, who lives in Norfolk, released a statement to 13News: “The family is in a tragic state of grief. All in shock an confounded to why this tragedy happened to such a kind, generous, and happy young man. We were married 1 year and lived so happily. He was so ambitious and had such amazing dreams for us. He was the best person I knew and always made people smile. His smile was one no one will forget."
The couple met in 2007 and married last June.
Family friend Jim Sturtevant said, "He knew he was taking a risk, he knew he'd be in danger, but he said to me, ‘Jim that's what I want to do.'"
A teacher at Truckee High, from which Collins graduated in 2007, said, "Brian always seemed solid he wasn't one of those kids where we were waiting to see what road he was going to take we all pretty much knew he was going to be on a good path."
The uncle of Lt. Van Dorn, Rich Albright, said, "My heart is just feeling a loss and really an empty space. Wes Van Dorn meant a great deal to me and all his family. He touched a lot of lives, but he particularly touched mine in a lot of ways."
Van Dorn served in the Navy for six years and seven months; Collins had served for two years and two months, the Navy said.
They were among the five crewmembers on the Norfolk-based helicopter, which was part of Helicopter Mine Counter Measures Squadron 14, when it crashed. One of them remains missing; one has been released from the hospital and one could be released from the hospital Friday.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation.