UNITED STATES NEWS

5 Marines aboard helicopter that went down outside San Diego are confirmed dead

Feb 8, 2024, 6:59 AM | Updated: Feb 9, 2024, 6:36 am

Rescue personnel meet at a command center, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Kitchen Creek, California, d...

Rescue personnel meet at a command center, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Kitchen Creek, California, during the search for five Marines who went down in a helicopter near San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The helicopter carrying five Marines that crashed during a storm in the mountains outside San Diego was a CH-53E Super Stallion designed to fly through bad weather, even at night.

The Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in the military, but every aircraft has its limits, and while every flight for Marines is considered a training opportunity, there is inherent risk, experts say. Now investigators will be looking at whether it was appropriate to send troops into a region being clobbered by a storm of historic proportions.

The military confirmed Thursday that all five Marines were killed when their helicopter went down during stormy weather, and efforts were underway to recover their remains. Marine Corps officials notified the families in person while Marines have been stationed round-the-clock at the site to stay with the remains, said Col. James C. Ford, operations officer with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

“Their fellow Marines have remained by their side as Marines do and took shifts throughout the night at the mishap site, keeping watch over our fallen despite the hazardous weather conditions,” Ford said. “Our fellow Marines were and continue to be guarded by their brothers and sisters.”

Citing the “hazardous terrain and weather” at the site, Ford said the ground recovery efforts will take place over coming weeks as an investigation into the crash is conducted.

Per military policy, the names of the Marines are not released until 24 hours after all next-of-kin have been notified.

However, Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, of Chandler, Arizona was among those killed, according to his mother.

“We will miss him dearly,” Caryn Langen told KNSD-TV of San Diego.

Marine Corps leaders, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden expressed their condolences.

“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers,’” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, commander of the wing, said in a statement.

Authorities say the CH-53E Super Stallion vanished late Tuesday night while conducting a flight training on their way back to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego from Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas.

The last known contact with the Super Stallion was at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, when waves of downpours and snow were hitting the region, 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.

Marines fly the model in the “most challenging environments you can think of,” said Timothy Loranger, a former Marine Corps aircraft mechanic and now civilian pilot and lawyer who specializes in aviation crashes.

“But even knowing that, it’s important for those making the decisions to decide whether the risk is worth it,” he said. “Here was a training mission with the crew flying back home to Miramar, so you have to ask, why fly in this weather now? Was this poor judgement or some pilot error issue? These are very important questions that have to be asked.”

A mechanical issue in bad weather would also make flying even harder. And while the helicopter was designed for bad weather, ice accumulation on rotor blades could disrupt the ability to create lift for the craft and cause it to crash, Loranger said.

All this will be part of the investigation, Loranger said, adding that it’s too early to speculate on what occurred. He said the Super Stallion has a long history of being reliable, but it’s not perfect.

The craft was discovered Wednesday morning near Pine Valley, an hour’s drive from San Diego.

The mountain community is at about 3,700 feet (1,127 meters) in elevation in the Cuyamaca Mountains, an area which saw as much 8 inches (20 centimeters) of accumulating snow within hours Tuesday night and early Wednesday and saw more falling Wednesday night, forecasters said.

The area includes San Diego County’s second highest mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, at 6,512 feet (1,985 meters), and is also near the Cleveland National Forest, which covers 720 square miles (1,860 square kilometers) with much of it steep, rocky and with limited trails.

The five Marines were assigned to Miramar’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar.

Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon, spokesperson for the wing, said she had little information beyond the statement but noted that recovery efforts were being hampered by snowfall from the storm that was moving out of California on Thursday.

“I do know that it’s cold. … I know that’s been a contentious issue” for searchers in reaching the crash site, she said.

Measuring about 99 feet (30 meters) long and weighing up to nearly 35 tons (31,638 kilograms), the CH-53E Super Stallion has been used in combat and other operations around the world for more than three decades, including in Beirut, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, according to a U.S. Navy website.

In 2018, four Marines from Miramar died when their Super Stallion crashed near El Centro, near the California-Mexico border, during a training mission. The Marine Corps ruled out pilot error for the accident. The victims’ families later sued two companies they alleged provided a defective part that they blamed for the crash.

In 2005, a Super Stallion went down in a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 31 people on board. The accident, blamed on pilot error, was the single deadliest loss of U.S. troops during the war.

More than 130 are in operation.

Nicknamed the “hurricane maker” because of the downwash from its three engines, the Super Stallion has a range of about 640 miles (1,029 kilometers). It was designed to carry up to 55 troops or about 16 tons (more than 13,000 kilograms) of cargo.

United States News

Musher Dutch Johnson, a kennel manager at The August Foundation for Alaska Racing Dogs, runs a dog ...

Associated Press

Alaska’s Iditarod dogs get neon visibility harnesses after 5 were fatally hit while training

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska’s official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails. For the first time, mushers who line up for […]

55 minutes ago

FILE - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference...

Associated Press

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton beat impeachment. Now he wants Super Tuesday revenge on his foes

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton beat impeachment. On Super Tuesday, he wants political revenge. The Republican, who just six months ago was on the brink of removal from office, is charging into Texas’ primaries on a dramatic campaign to oust dozens in his own party. They include rank-and-file legislators, state judges […]

56 minutes ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 29, 2024. Short...

Associated Press

Ukrainian troops are rationing ammo. But House Republicans plan to take weeks to consider aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian drones fly without ammunition. Russian artillery unleash deadly volleys from safe positions beyond the range of Kyiv’s troops. Shortages of ammo and supplies are resulting in lost ground to Moscow, U.S. congressional leaders warn, yet the Republican-controlled House has shown little hurry to resupply Ukraine with military aid. Across Washington, officials […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Registered Republican voters stand in line March 6, 2012, for the caucus event in Rathdrum, ...

Associated Press

Republicans in Idaho, Missouri and Michigan will meet to weigh in on the presidential race

More delegates are up for grabs Saturday as former President Donald Trump looks to get closer to clinching the Republican nomination and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley seeks her first win. Trump, who is especially strong in caucuses, is expected to add to his delegate lead in Republican caucuses in Idaho and Missouri, as well […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Music fans relax during a break in the entertainment at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, A...

Associated Press

Peace, music and memories: As the 1960s fade, historians scramble to capture Woodstock’s voices

BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) — Woodstock didn’t even happen in Woodstock. The fabled music festival, seen as one of the seminal cultural events of the 1960s, took place 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) away in Bethel, New York, an even smaller village than Woodstock. It’s a fitting misnomer for an event that has become as much legend […]

1 hour ago

***HOLD FOR JEFF MCMURRAY STORY**** Pedestrians cross the street at the intersection of Washington ...

Associated Press

A New Jersey city that limited street parking hasn’t had a traffic death in 7 years

Street parking was already scarce in Hoboken, New Jersey, when the death of an elderly pedestrian spurred city leaders to remove even more spaces in a bid to end traffic fatalities. For seven years now, the city of nearly 60,000 people has reported resounding success: Not a single automobile occupant, pedestrian or bicyclist has died […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

5 Marines aboard helicopter that went down outside San Diego are confirmed dead