Five US marines killed in California helicopter crash

US

Five US marines have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. 

The aircraft, a CH-53E Super Stallion, went down on Tuesday night during stormy weather in mountains outside San Diego.

The helicopter was discovered on Wednesday morning near the mountain community of Pine Valley, about 45 miles from the city.

Rescue crews assist with search efforts for a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter with five crew members aboard that went missing overnight, in southeast of Pine Valley, San Diego, California, U.S., February 7, 2024, in this screen grab taken from a social media video. Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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A still image from a social media post of rescue crews assisting with search efforts. Pic: Reuters

President Joe Biden said in a statement that he and First Lady Jill Biden were “heartbroken” to learn of the marines’ deaths.

“Our service members represent the very best of our nation – and these five marines were no exception,” Mr Biden said.

The marines who were killed were not immediately named but they were assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the military said.

Major General Michael J Borgschulte, commander of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement: “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.”

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The helicopter had been returning to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego after training at Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas.

A search and rescue effort got under way as a turbulent storm dumped heavy snow and record rain over California.

Rescue personnel meet at a command center, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Kitchen Creek, Calif. A Marine Corps helicopter that had been missing with five troops aboard as an historic storm continued drenching California was found Wednesday morning in a mountainous area outside San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
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Rescue personnel at a command centre involved in the search operation. Pic: AP

A U.S. Marine carries rescue gear at a command center Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Kitchen Creek, Calif. A Marine Corps helicopter that had been missing with five troops aboard as an historic storm continued drenching California was found Wednesday morning in a mountainous area outside San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
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A marine carries rescue gear after the crash. Pic: AP

The operation involved federal, state and local agencies, including the US Forest Service, US Border Patrol, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the state Civil Air Patrol.

The Super Stallion helicopter – the US military’s largest – can carry dozens of people and requires four crew members – a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, and mechanic.

A Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter flies during training at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. A Marine Corps helicopter, like the one pictured, that had been missing with five troops aboard as an historic storm continued drenching California was found Wednesday morning, Feb. 7, 2024, in a mountainous area outside San Diego.(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
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A Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter – like the one involved in the crash – during training at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego on Tuesday. Pic: AP

More than 130 are in operation in the US military, with the aircraft performing “a full range of military combat operations in Beirut, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya”, according to a US Navy website.

The Super Stallion helicopter has been involved in several other deadly accidents.

Four US marines were killed in 2018 when their aircraft crashed near the California-Mexico border during a training mission.

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The Marine Corps ruled out pilot error for the accident. The victims’ families later sued two companies they alleged provided a defective part that they blamed for the crash.

In 2005, a Super Stallion went down in a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 31 people on board. The accident, blamed on pilot error, was the single deadliest loss of US troops during the war.

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