The Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter was reported “overdue” after it failed to arrive at Miramar on Tuesday night.
The aircraft disappeared somewhere between Las Vegas and Miramar Air Station near San Diego on Tuesday. Search and rescue teams were dispatched to help locate the craft the next day. A civilian group eventually spotted the wreckage of the chopper near the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego’s East County.
The Marines were eventually confirmed dead by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which was managing the rescue efforts.
“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,” Major General Michael Borgschulte said in a statement.
The Marines have not yet been identified. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing confirmed that authorities were working to recover the remains. The identities of the Marines will not be available until at least 24 hours after their next of kin have been notified, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Update: The five 3rd MAW Marines have been confirmed deceased.
“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.” -Maj. Gen. Borgschulte, 3rd MAW Commanding General pic.twitter.com/CBLs2jDKWG
— 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (@3rdmaw) February 8, 2024
President Biden offered his condolences after the Marines were confirmed dead.
“Jill and I are heartbroken at the loss of five US Marines, whose aircraft crashed while flying from Nevada to California during a routine training mission. As the Department of Defense continues to assess what occurred, we extend our deepest condolences to their families, their squadron, and the US Marine Corps as we grieve the loss of five of our nation’s finest warriors. I am deeply grateful to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the US Air Force Auxiliary-Civil Air Patrol, and other federal, state, and local agencies for their professionalism and dedication in supporting search and recovery efforts,” he said.
“Our service members represent the very best of our nation – and these five Marines were no exception. Today, as we mourn this profound loss, we honour their selfless service and ultimate sacrifice – and reaffirm the sacred obligation we bear to all those who wear the uniform and their families.”
Firefighters and ambulances struggled to reach the site due to muddy and steep terrain, making it difficult to get emergency vehicles to the location. Cal Fire San Diego noted in a post on social media that it was snowing in the area where the helicopter went down.
The USMC asked for assistance from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the Civil Air Patrol to search the region. A civil search group reportedly discovered the crash site just after 9am local time on Wednesday.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Office, Cal Fire San Diego, Border Patrol, and the California Civil Air Patrol were active in the search. Drones are also being used to survey the area.
No further information detailing the condition of the crash or the possible location of the missing Marines is available at this time.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Office said it received a call to assist at around 1.50am on Wednesday, and dispatched a helicopter to the search area.
However, the helicopter was not able to reach the search zone due to the atmospheric river-powered storm in the area.