Five Marines who were on board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter traveling back to Miramar Air Base near San Diego, California, from Creech Air Base near Las Vegas, Nevada, have been confirmed dead
Five US Marines who were on board a helicopter that never reached its intended destination have been confirmed dead.
The Marines were en route to Miramar Air Base near San Diego, California, but the CH-53E helicopter they were travelling in never arrived. Their death has been confirmed by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, of which they were a part.
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing issued an update on X, formerly Twitter, in which they shared a release confirming the five Marines, who were part of the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were “deceased”. Major General Michael J Borgschulte, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) Commanding General said: “To the families of our fallen Marines, we send our deepest condolences and commit to ensuring your support and care during this incredibly difficult time.”
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The CH-53E ‘Super Stallion’ was “reported overdue” to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Tuesday night. The five Marines on board had been returning from the Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas where they had been carrying out unit-level training.
In a statement, Major General Borgschulte said: “It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers’ while conducting a training flight last night. These pilots and crewmembers were serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so.
“We will forever be grateful for their call to duty and selfless service. To the families of our fallen Marines, we send our deepest condolences and commit to ensuring your support and care during this incredibly difficult time.”
Per policy, the identities of the five Marines killed in the helicopter crash will not be released until 24 hours after all next-of-kin notifications have been completed. According to 3rd MAW: “Efforts to recover the remains of the Marines and equipment have begun and an investigation is underway.”
The unit added: “Though we understand the inherent risks of military service, any loss of life is always difficult. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing stands unwavering in its commitment to supporting the families, friends, and fellow service members of the fallen Marines.”
The CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in the US military and is designed for flying in harsh conditions, transporting troops and supplies with space for up to 37 passengers in its normal configuration. But those on board the flight that went missing late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning were facing a historic storm that was gripping California, dumping heavy snow and record rainfall in the area.
After the helicopter failed to return to the Miramar base, the Marines asked the local police and Civil Air Patrol for help. Cops attempted to send their own helicopter to search for the missing aircraft or a potential wreckage site but were unable to reach its last known location due to harsh weather.
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The helicopter’s wreckage was found on Wednesday on a mountainside near Cleveland National Forest, close to the flight’s last known location. Officials confirmed the discovery and location of the crash site on Wednesday, saying civil authorities found the downed vessel in Pine Valley, California, at around 9.08am local time.
Investigator Jason Paladino added that the Sikorsky 53 E helicopters – the aircraft flown by the military personnel – “have some of the worst safety records in military aviation” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The last known contact with the helicopter was at around 11.30pm local time on Tuesday night, according to California Fire’s spokesperson Mike Cornette.
By 1.50am local time, Marines called for help from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and Civil Air Patrol. Unable to access the site using their helicopter, the sheriff’s department brought in off-road vehicles to navigate the treacherous terrain.
California Fire said crews responded to the last known location of the aircraft but found nothing. It had been seen around Cleveland National Forest near Pine Valley in California, and the Marines on board had reportedly asked for help just after 2am local time, local news reported.