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5 Marines pronounced dead in helicopter crash in East County

Marine Helicopter
Marine Helicopter crash search
Posted at 5:10 AM, Feb 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-09 13:54:29-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Officials at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar confirmed Thursday that the five Marines missing after a CH-53E Super Stallion crashed in east San Diego County earlier this week were pronounced dead.

Before the crash, the helicopter carrying the five Marines took off from an Air Force Base in Nevada Tuesday night and was en route to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, according to officials.

MCAS Miramar released the following information early Thursday morning:

“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” while conducting a training flight last night. These pilots and crewmembers were serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so. 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.”
- Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, commanding general of 3rd MAW

The five Marines were identified Friday morning, 24 hours after their next-of-kin were notified.

MCAS Miramar officials added that they were still working to recover the remains of the Marines and equipment.

President Biden issued this statement regarding the tragedy:

"Jill and I are heartbroken at the loss of five U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Air Force Auxiliary-Civil Air Patrol, and other federal, state, and local agencies for their professionalism and dedication in supporting search and recovery efforts."

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a statement on the crash:

"We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. Marines earlier this week during a training flight enroute from Nevada to California. My prayers are with these brave Marines and their families, loved ones, and teammates.

As the Marine Corps investigates this deadly crash, it is yet another reminder that across our nation and the world our selfless service members put their lives on the line every day to keep our country safe. The entire Department of Defense honors these brave Marines’ service and grieves their passing."

The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said on X that civil authorities located the aircraft Wednesday morning, about eight hours after it went missing in the Pine Valley area. 

Early Wednesday morning, the helicopter was reported missing after it was overdue to arrive at MCAS Miramar from Creech Air Force Base, which is located in Indian Springs, Nevada, on Tuesday evening.

Various agencies worked together to assist with recovery despite the challenging weather conditions, including the snow, rain and fog.

ABC 10News heard from Residents and those working in this area who said these conditions are terrible and dangerous.

"It's just so sad… my heart breaks for them it truly does," Jill Marsh said. "For the parents, the wives, the sisters, the brothers, it's unfortunate."

The cause of the CH-53E Super Stallion's crash is under investigation.