Martin C. Evans

LI Marine Badly Injured

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2011 at 6:31 pm

A Long Island Marine who two years earlier surprised a Rocky Point second grader with a flag and combat wings was seriously injured in a military helicopter crash that killed a fellow crew member and injured two others on the north shore of Oahu.

Sea Stallion

Cpl. Ronnie Brandafino, 23, of Farmingville, suffered injuries to his leg and pelvis late Tuesday when the CH-53 Sea Stallion crash-landed on a sand bar near Marine Corps Base Hawaii, according to members of his family.

His parents, Frank Brandafino and Darlene Claus, and his brother, Derek, arrived in Hawaii early Thursday to be at his bedside, said Brandafino’s stepmother, Michelle Brandafino, of Nesconset.

Michelle Brandafino said she had been relieved when Brandafino returned safely from seven months in Afghanistan in October. He also served a 2008 tour of duty in Iraq.

“He was supposed to be coming back home for good in April because he’d done his five years,” Michelle Brandafino said.

The twin-engine, heavy-lift helicopter had left the base — located just outside the beachfront village of Kailua where President Barack Obama has spent the past three Christmas vacations — for a 7 p.m. training mission.

It was flying at about 300 feet when it issued a mayday call, Marines spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Diann Olson said.
The 24,000-pound Sea Stallion, a helicopter that was dubbed “Jolly Green Giant” when its model first came into service during the Vietnam War, made a crash landing before coming to rest on its side.

Olson confirmed Brandafino, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Marine Air Group 24, was among those who were injured. He was in stable condition Thursday at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, as were the pilot, Maj. Clinton J. Collins, and the co-pilot, Capt. Kevin F. Hayles, Olson said.

Killed in the crash was Corporal Jonathan D. Faircloth, an aerial observer with the squadron.

Two years ago, Brandafino surprised a second grader at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School in Rocky Point, Heather Kuhn, when he presented her with an American flag and combat wings at a school assembly in Kuhn’s honor.

Kuhn had sent Brandafino a care package filled with gloves, snacks and other treats while Brandafino’s Marine unit was stationed at Al Asad, Iraq.

“It’s pretty rough not being with your family,” Brandafino had said then. “So it lightens up your day getting these packages.”

  1. God Bless You and your family.Thank You for your service to our country and fighting to let us live the lives we do! Thoughts and prayers sent to you and yours! SEMPER FI!!

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