(RightWing.org) – Five Marines have died after a military helicopter crashed in California. The aircraft disappeared on Tuesday night, the wreck was found in the mountains the next morning. The Marine Corps has now confirmed that its five-person crew all died in the accident.
Late on February 8, a US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter left Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to return to their duty station at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, near San Diego. The aircraft, a heavy-lift machine that can transport 55 fully equipped troops or 18 tons of cargo, reported its location at around 11:30 p.m. local time, but no more messages were received from it after that. At 1:00 p.m. on February 7, it was reported overdue and a search immediately began.
Just after 9 a.m. on February 8, the wreck of the helicopter was found in Pine Valley in the Santa Ana Mountains, around 45 miles short of Miramar. The crew wasn’t found with the aircraft, and the search continued. San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies were hampered by heavy snow that fell during recent winter storms, but the bodies of the five crew were finally located early on February 8. Major General Michael J Borgschulte USMC, the commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, confirmed that all five had died.
The CH-53E was developed from the Vietnam-era CH-53 Sea Stallion and entered service in 1981. It’s a powerful and versatile machine that’s often used to transport vehicles or artillery, which it can carry underneath in a sling, as well as rapidly deploying Marines in significant numbers.
However, it’s also complicated and somewhat accident-prone; the US Navy’s MH-53E version has over twice the accident rate of other Navy helicopters. The USMC planned to start replacing its aging fleet with newly-built CH-53K King Stallions in 2009, but technical issues meant the first of the new helicopters only became operational in April 2022. It could be years before all 150 CH-53Es have been replaced.
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