Five Marines are dead after their helicopter crashed Tuesday in Southern California, the Marine Corps confirmed Thursday.
Civil authorities on Wednesday morning found the crash site of the CH-53E Super Stallion, which had been conducting a routine training flight from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said Wednesday it was searching for the five Marines who had been aboard the helicopter. But on Thursday morning, it confirmed the Marines, members of the wing’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, had died.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s news release didn’t identify the five Marines, citing the military’s policy of waiting 24 hours after notifying next of kin before releasing the names of service members who have died.
“These pilots and crewmembers were serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Borgschulte, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s commanding general, in a statement in the release. “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,” Borgschulte added.
The mishap is under investigation.
“Efforts to recover the remains of the Marines and equipment have begun,” the news release stated.
After the Super Stallion helicopter didn’t arrive at the San Diego Marine installation Miramar on Tuesday night, federal, state and local agencies launched a search for the aircraft and the Marines.
At 9:08 a.m. local time Wednesday, the agencies discovered the aircraft in the San Diego County community of Pine Valley, California. The Marine Corps didn’t confirm until Thursday that the helicopter had crashed.
The Marines were flying the heavy-lift helicopter as a storm swept across Southern California.
The Super Stallion was involved in 16 “Class A” mishaps between October 2012 and October 2023, according to data provided to Marine Corps Times by the Naval Safety Command. In that most serious kind of mishap, a person dies or sustains a permanent total disability, or at least $2.5 million of an aircraft is destroyed.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that he and First Lady Jill Biden were “heartbroken” by the tragedy.
“Our service members represent the very best of our nation — and these five Marines were no exception,” Biden said. “Today, as we mourn this profound loss, we honor their selfless service and ultimate sacrifice — and reaffirm the sacred obligation we bear to all those who wear the uniform and their families.”
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.