US Military Confirms Tragic Loss

US Military Confirms Tragic Loss

( – The US Marine Corps has confirmed that five Marines who went missing when their helicopter crashed in Southern California are dead. The aircraft was returning from a training exercise in Nevada when it went down in the Santa Ana mountains — less than half an hour out from its destination. The search for its crew was complicated by extreme weather conditions.

On February 7, a US Marine CH-53E helicopter, which had been on an exercise mission at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, set out to return to its home base at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The aircraft left Creech for the 260-mile flight late in the evening and sent its last message around 11:30 pm. At 1:00 am, it was reported overdue, and Miramar contacted the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office to organize a search.

Police tried to launch their own helicopter to look for the missing Super Stallion, but a major storm forced them to abort. On the morning of February 8, searchers from the sheriff’s office, US Forest Service, Civil Air Service, and other agencies located the crashed helicopter in Pine Valley, around 4,000 feet up. However, they didn’t initially find the crew, and the search continued in severe winter weather conditions until Thursday morning. Then, sadly, the bodies of all five marines were finally located. Miramar released an official statement later that day confirming the aircrew had died, but names were withheld. It’s a standard USMC policy not to release the names of dead marines until at least 24 hours after next of kin have been informed.

This is the second fatal crash involving a USMC aircraft in two months; in December, a CV-22 Osprey crashed off the coast of Japan, killing its eight occupants. The CH-53E, a heavy-lift helicopter, has been in service with the Marine Corps since 1981. The Corps operates around 150 of the aircraft, but they’re now being replaced by the simpler and more powerful CH-53K model.

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