WHITE LAKE — The body of a Marine who went missing while on a flight training mission over Bladen County on Monday has been recovered and his identity has been published in the man’s hometown newspaper.
The Morris Daily Herald of Morris County, Ill., identified the missing Marine as being from Coal City, Ill. According to the paper, the family of Steven Hancock told the paper on Tuesday afternoon their son was the one who fell from the Osprey aircraft as it flew over Bladen County.
The Marine Corps released the following statement on Tuesday evening, ““We deeply mourn the loss of a member of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing family today. I’d like to extend my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of our Marine,” Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general, said in the news release. “I also want to extend my thanks to the community for their tireless efforts throughout this search.”
According to the Morris Daily Herald, Hancock is a 2011 graduate of Coal City High School and was an Eagle Scout. He entered the U.S. Marine Corps as an E2 PFC because of his status as an Eagle Scout.
Hancock reportedly disappeared as the MV-22 Osprey aircraft on which he was a crew chief was practicing touch-and-go landings at the Elizabethtown Airport on Monday. According to published reports, Hancock was reported to have been on board the flight when it left Elizabethtown and his absence was noticed at about 6:30 p.m. Monday as the aircraft was returning to the New River Air Station near Cherry Point.
The search area followed the Osprey’s flight path and included an area from the west shore of White Lake to Bay Tree Lake and Autrytown Road. The terrain includes Carolina Bays and numerous blueberry fields. Hancock’s body was found near a blueberry field on Johnsontown Road, according to published reports.
Marines from Cherry Point, as well as Marine Corps helicopters, joined local officials in the search. Bladen County EMS, the White Lake Fire Department, Bay Tree Lakes and Hickory Grove fire departments, the state Highway Patrol and Forest Service all assisted the Marine Corps in the search for the missing airman.
According to the Marine Corps, the incident remains under investigation. Efforts to contact Bladen County Emergency Management Director Bradley Kinlaw for this story were unsuccessful.