Many in the Upstate town of Woodruff gathered Monday to honor a native son missing ever since a Marine helicopter he was riding went down following an apparent collision off Hawaii last week.
Friends and family held a vigil at the Woodruff Town Hall around noon for Sgt. Jeffrey Sempler, 22, who was among the twelve Marines identified as passengers and crew on two helicopters that went missing Thursday night. The Marine Corps on Sunday officially identified the missing crewmen as four officers and eight enlisted personnel.
The Coast Guard has been hampered by heavy surf and rain as they seek any survivors, although search crews have reported finding debris in the water.
“Three Marines just left my home, after relaying a notification that my son, Sgt. Jeffrey Sempler is Missing in Action, Currently presumed deceased,” Sempler’s father Jeremy Beauvier posted on Facebook Sunday. “Jeffrey is not just my son, but a friend a hero.”
Sempler was a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. The squadron is part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
Sempler has served in the Corps for nearly four years after graduating from Woodruff High School in 2011.
Marine Corps investigators are still investigating what happened, but Coast Guard reports indicate they believe the two CH-53 “Super Stallion” heavy-lift helicopters collided during exercises Thursday night. Squadron 463 is normally used to transport troops and equipment.