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Old 6 January 2000, 21:26
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By Cpl. Christian Deluca

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Dec. 23) -- Survivors of a CH-46 helicopter crash that claimed the lives of six Marines and one sailor Dec. 9 off the coast of San
Diego recounted their horrifying experience at a news conference Dec. 16 at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers
Meanwhile, wives of the deceased service members spoke to reporters about their deceased husbands and thanked
the military community for its support.
Capt. Eric Kapitulik of 1st Force Reconnaissance Company was one of 11 Marines who survived the crash, which
occurred during training and an attempted landing on the USNS Pecos.
"We got out because we were lucky," Kapitulik said. "We weren't knocked unconscious when the helicopter hit the
water, and that's about it. It was luck."
Kapitulik said he knew something was wrong when he felt the back wheels of the CH-46 helicopter hit the deck of the
Pecos, a Navy tanker. Seconds later, he heard the engines whine and the bird fell backwards into the cold Pacific
"Everything went black when the bird went under," Kapitulik said. "I began to claw and grab at the equipment that was
inside the helo. I kept getting turned around, I didn't know what was up or what was down. I saw a hole with light
coming through and started to swim to that. I broke through (the hole), pushed off the helo and came to the surface."
The hole he swam through was the "hell hole" on the belly of the helo -- an exit for fast-roping Marines.
"When I was under water, it felt like I was going to drown for a second," Kapitulik said. "I thought, 'I don't want to die
like this.'"
Staff Sgt. Michael Archer, who was in charge of readying the Marines for the jump, also spoke about the crash.
Archer said he knew the helo was going down. He jumped from it seconds before it hit the water. He broke the
surface just in time to see the helo sink.
"First thing through my head was 'where is everybody else,'" he said. Moments later, Navy crewmen were rescuing
11 Marines from the water.
Four of the widows were at the conference. Julie Sabasteanski, wife of SSgt. Vincent Sabasteanski, Jean Baca, wife
of Cpl. Mark Baca, Holly Galloway, wife of SSgt. David Galloway; and Kathy Asis, wife of Hospitalman Jay Asis, held
hands and consoled each other. Asis read a statement written by the widows.
"They were an elite group, a brotherhood of men dedicated to serving their country," Asis said. "We are comforted
knowing they died doing what they loved."
She said they received overwhelming support from people around the world.
"Our husbands would be proud to know the organization they have given their lives to is so willing to take care of us,
despite their great loss," she said. "Each of us thanks you for the support we never knew existed."
Two of the widows wrote separate personal statements that were handed out during the conference.
Sabasteanski said that her husband was the best friend and father she will ever know.
"I know Vin has touched so many lives, and it becomes more evident to me every day," she said. "He will always
remain close in my heart as well as many others. I know there will be many stories told about his life for years to
Galloway said her husband had a zest for life and was part of an elite group that protected each other and their
families as well.
"To know my husband, you could not help but to love him. He was so kind and gentle. He loved life and made
everyone around him enjoy life as well. He was very proud of his family and his life's work," Galloway said. "I will keep
his memory alive. David, I will love you forever."
"We take comfort knowing these men are together now, in a better place," Kapitulik said.
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