Woman makes documentary about her father’s Naval Academy ring that was lost for years after deadly 1972 Marine helicopter crash

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -It’s been 51 years since five United States Marines were killed in a helicopter crash during a NATO training exercise in Norway.

For Abby Pilger Boretto, making a documentary about the helicopter crash that killed her father and the four others on the island of Grytoya in 1972 wasn’t planned.

“I mostly told people that my father died during Vietnam,” Boretto said. “It just seemed easier to put a place and name to it.”

Boretto was 15 months old when the crash happened during the NATO training exercise as her father Lieutenant Henry Pilger, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune, was the pilot.

Marine Sergeant Rocky Shaw says he and another sergeant were waiting for a helicopter to pick them up that same day in Norway, but says it never came.

“All those years I thought that helicopter was the one that was supposed to pick us up, but I can’t ever prove it,” Shaw said.

22 years after her father’s death, Boretto says she had a special package waiting for her one day.

“I asked my mom, what is this?” “She said, it’s your father’s Naval Academy ring.”

Boretto says a Hunter found it at the crash site between two rocks.

“It was in miraculously perfect condition, which you can’t imagine after 22 years of sitting on that mountain,” Boretto said.

Despite the find, Boretto says the ring sat in a memory box for 28 years before she decided to make the documentary “The Ring and The Mountain.”

Boretto held a squadron alumni reunion for HMLA-167 in Jacksonville Monday for the first time, with the families of the other four Marines killed in the crash.

“I thank God for Abby because she took this ball and ran with it,” Shaw said. “I’m so thankful that I was able to help her find some of these family members.”

“None of us knew what happened to our loved ones for 50 years, this was a lost story and history but it is no longer,” Boretto said.

Boretto says an exclusive premiere of the documentary will be shown at the Camp Lejeune Base on Wednesday.