Five U.S. Marines are confirmed dead after a helicopter they were in went down Tuesday night in stormy weather outside of San Diego.
The Associated Press reported the CH-53E Super Stallion went down during stormy weather while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego after training at Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas.
“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3d Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers,'” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, commander of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement.
“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,” Borgshulte said. “Though we understand the inherent risks of military service, any loss of life is always difficult.”
Efforts to recover the remains have started. An investigation into the crash is underway, according to the statement.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden are “heartbroken” to learn of the Marines’ deaths.
“Our service members represent the very best of our nation — and these five Marines were no exception,” Biden said. “As the Department of Defense continues to assess what occurred, we extend our deepest condolences to their families, their squadron, and the U.S. Marine Corps as we grieve the loss of five of our nation’s finest warriors.”
The helicopter was last in contact at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mike Cornette of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told CBS 8 news. That location was based on a “ping” reported to a Cal Fire dispatch center.
The craft was discovered Wednesday morning near the mountain community of Pine Valley, about an hour’s drive from San Diego.
The helicopter was designed to fly in harsh conditions and went missing as heavy snow and record rain came down in California. More rain and snow hit the region Wednesday night, forcing searchers to battle through heavy snow to reach the helicopter.
The military worked with federal, state and local agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Border Patrol, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the state Civil Air Patrol.
The CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in the military. Marines have used it for heavy-lifting duties around the world for more than 30 years. More than 130 are in operation, the AP reported.