5 Marines killed in helicopter crash in Calif. storm, military says

The five Marines who were aboard a helicopter that was reported missing Tuesday during a California storm are dead, the military confirmed.

“It is with a heavy heart and a profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines,” Maj. Gen. Michael Borgschulte, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement. “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.”

Authorities are still attempting to recover the remains of the Marines and have launched an investigation into what happened, the statement said, calling the incident a “crash.”

It added that the military would identify the names of the killed Marines 24 hours after all families had been notified. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement the entire Defense Department is grieving their passing.

“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,” Austin said.

Searchers found the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter around 9 a.m. local time Wednesday near Pine Valley, Calif., outside San Diego.

The aircraft was reported missing during a historic storm after a routine training flight from Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, according to a statement from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The storm brought record-shattering rains, serious flooding and landslides over three days.

President Biden said in a statement Thursday that he and first lady Jill Biden are “heartbroken at the loss of five U.S. Marines.”

“Our service members represent the very best of our nation — and these five Marines were no exception,” Biden said. “Today, as we mourn this profound loss, we honor their selfless service and ultimate sacrifice — and reaffirm the sacred obligation we bear to all those who wear the uniform and their families.”

The Super Stallion, just under 100 feet long, is used for “heavy-lift” operations around the world and can take off carrying 16 tons of cargo, according to the Naval Air Systems Command. It was not immediately clear why the aircraft that crashed Tuesday, one of 136 in the military’s inventory, was conducting a training exercise in the poor conditions. Military officials did not immediately respond to requests to answer that question Thursday morning.

Maham Javaid contributed to this report.

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