Missing Marine Helicopter Bound for San Diego Base Located Amid Search for Crew
Search and rescue operations intensified after a military helicopter vanished en route to a Marine air station in San Diego, sparking concerns for the safety of five Marines aboard.
The aircraft’s disappearance triggered a massive search effort, culminating in its discovery in Pine Valley, approximately 40 miles east of San Diego, announced the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing on Wednesday morning. While the helicopter was located, details regarding its condition remain undisclosed.
Assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, the crew embarked on a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter departing from Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev., and heading for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. However, the helicopter went missing amidst challenging weather conditions in California, plagued by relentless rain over three days.
“The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is coordinating search and rescue efforts with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol,” stated officials.
The incident prompted President Biden’s attention, with the National Security Council expressing vigilance and concern while awaiting updates on the situation.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection received the initial alert about the missing helicopter at 2:20 a.m., indicating the last contact with the crew occurred at 11:30 p.m. Firefighters and paramedics received coordinates from the Marine Corps, guiding them to Lake Morena in the Cleveland National Forest, where adverse weather conditions impeded search efforts.
A collaborative endeavor ensued involving various agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the Civil Air Patrol.
Meteorological challenges persisted throughout the operation, with poor visibility exacerbated by snow, rain, and gusty winds, making search conditions treacherous. The rugged terrain added complexity to the rescue mission, particularly in remote mountain communities like Pine Valley, where the helicopter was ultimately located.
The area’s topography, nestled within the expansive Cleveland National Forest, posed logistical hurdles reminiscent of a tragic incident in 2018. Four Marines lost their lives in a helicopter crash west of El Centro, with investigations attributing the accident to mechanical malfunctions rather than pilot error.
In the wake of the crash, families of the fallen Marines pursued legal action against parts manufacturers, underscoring the gravity of ensuring equipment reliability in military operations.
As authorities continue to piece together the events leading to the helicopter’s disappearance, concerns linger over the safety and well-being of the crew. The discovery of the aircraft marks a pivotal moment in ongoing search efforts, with hopes pinned on swift and successful rescue operations amidst challenging conditions.