Five US Marines are currently missing following the crash of their helicopter in the snow-covered California mountains. The CH-53E Super Stallion was discovered approximately 45 miles (72km) away from its intended destination after the team was reported as overdue.
However, it is uncertain what happened to the five Marines who were on board. They embarked on a training flight to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, located near San Diego, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The troops were on a flight from Las Vegas to Miramar, according to the Marine Corps. They are part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, which is assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Fire crews were notified about the missing aircraft at 02:20 local time on Wednesday (10:20 GMT). Emergency crews were sent to an area near Lake Morena, California, and after several hours, they finally found the aircraft in Pine Valley in the Cuyamaca Mountains.
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing stated that rescuers are actively utilizing ground and aviation assets to locate the aircrew. They are working in coordination with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and various federal, state, and local agencies.
Officials have stated that the search efforts have been impacted by the challenging snow and wintry conditions in the area. The incident occurred following a winter storm that brought substantial rainfall and significant snowfall to mountainous regions.
Since its introduction in 1981, the CH-53E Super Stallion has become a vital component of Marine Corps aviation, primarily utilized for transportation purposes. It has a capacity of 37 passengers.
Aside from transporting troops, the helicopter is versatile enough to be utilized by the US and Japanese navies for combat operations and supply transportation.
The safety record of the Marine Corps Super Stallion has been inconsistent. There have been a number of unfortunate incidents involving the helicopter in recent years.
In April 2018, a tragic incident occurred when four troops lost their lives in a Super Stallion crash near El Centro, California. The unfortunate event took place during a routine training mission.
In January 2016, a tragic incident occurred when two Super Stallions collided over the Pacific near Oahu in Hawaii, resulting in the loss of 12 Marines. There have been multiple accidents in these California mountains recently.
In August, a tragic incident occurred when a Marine Corps pilot lost his life in a crash involving an F/A-18 Hornet jet. The crash took place in close proximity to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.