Nonprofit flies MN family to Hawaii for search for missing Marines

A Minnesota couple is rushing to the Hawaiian island of Oahu after learning their son is one of the 12 Marines still missing after two helicopters went down in the ocean Thursday night.

Sgt. Dillon Semolina, 24, is a Delano High School graduate who joined the Marines in 2011. He was third in command of the CH-53E super stallion helicopter that’s believed to have collided with another helicopter of his squadron during a nighttime training mission.

The Hawaii Coast Guard has established a seven-mile safety zone spanning the entire north side of Oahu to search for the 12 missing Marines.

"The coast guard is calculating drift rates where we might find them, and then we provide the guidance to helicopters, police, fire, Navy, and Coast Guard about where to conduct the search,” Adm. Vincent Atkins of the 14th Coast Guard District says.

Semolina’s parents flew to Hawaii this morning to be there during the search for their son thanks to Fox 9 viewers who helped connect Semolina’s father, Mike De la Cruz, to the nonprofit organization Luke’s Wings.

“It was incredibly emotional for me to talk to Michael and just try to handle logistics of where you’re going to stay, what you are going to eat, how you are going to get to and from the airport thinking in the greater scheme of things they may have just lost their son,” Jennifer Magerer of Luke’s Wings told Fox 9.

According to De la Cruz, the Marine Corps would not fly next of kin out until a body is recovered, but he fears semolina's body might not be found. The nonprofit helped to lift the financial burden from his shoulders so he can focus instead on hopefully receiving his son.

“It really impacted me to hear the strength in his voice and anything that I can do to help make him a little bit stronger or to alleviate any burden that was an honor for me to do,” Magerer said.

Neither the Marine Corps base nor the Hawaii Coast Guard will know how the helicopters were lost or even if they indeed crashed until the investigation is complete. The search will likely last for several more days.