DELANO, Minn. (WCCO) — Search and rescue operations are underway for 12 military personnel who went missing after two helicopters collided off the coast of Oahu late Thursday night. Among those missing is a United States Marine from Minnesota.

Sergeant Dillon Semolina grew up in Delano and went to Delano High School, where he left a lasting mark.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“He was just a fun-loving kid,” former Delano principal Matt Schoen said. “That’s the way I remember him.”

Schoen was principal when Semolina walked the halls of Delano High School. The 2010 graduate was active, played football and golf, and had many friends.

“Dillon was a great kid. He always joked around, he always was jovial,” Schoen said. “He had a great smile on his face.”

It was in the same hallways Schoen learned Friday that Dillon was one of the 12 marines missing after a helicopter crash during a training mission in Hawaii.

Semolina was a crew chief for a CH53E Super Stallion helicopter, according to his family — the same kind involved in the crash.

“You know, my heart dropped there. It was not a good feeling,” Schoen said. “You immediately turn to hope and prayers and thoughts that there is a successful rescue mission.”

It is hope guiding Semolina’s family. His brother posted to Facebook:

“Please pray for my brother and all those involved. There were two Marine helicopters that collided off the coast of Hawaii and his safety has not been confirmed. His helicopter was one of the ones in the collision. Please let them find him.”

“All of the Delano school community is thinking for their son to come back safe and sound,” Schoen said.

Sgt. Semolina’s family now lives in Bloomington.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy in Honolulu are searching for survivors. A coastguard spokesperson said the poor weather conditions are making the search difficult.

Kate Raddatz

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