The Marine Corps is searching for five Marines whose helicopter went missing while en route to a California base on Tuesday night.
The Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 were flying a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from Creech Air Force Base in southern Nevada to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego when the aircraft was reported “overdue,” meaning it hadn’t appeared by the expected time and contact couldn’t be made with it, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing spokeswoman Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon said in a statement to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday morning.
The aircraft wing, which the Marines’ squadron falls under, is engaged in search-and-rescue efforts with help from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol, according to Leguizamon.
“The most up-to-date information will be released as it becomes available,” the Marine spokeswoman added.
Mike Cornette, a fire captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in San Diego, told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday that his department got a call from the Coast Guard at 2:20 a.m. about the missing Super Stallion. The helicopter was last recorded as being at a location in San Diego County at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Cornette.
Fire units attempted to reach the last known coordinates of the aircraft by vehicle, but couldn’t because of the steep terrain and snow, Cornette said. They examined the area on foot and found nothing of note.
The department plans to go back there with all-terrain vehicles, drones and aircraft as the weather permits, with help from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol, according to Cornette.
“We’re all working together,” Cornette said. “Everybody has a stake in this. We’re working for the best possible outcome.”
David LaDieu, a lieutenant with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, said in a statement to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday that the department received a call about the missing helicopter at 1 a.m. and had its search-and-rescue team conducting operations by 3 a.m. The department is now using Jeep four-wheel drives to navigate the difficult and muddy terrain, he said.
Marine Corps Times requested comment from the local Civil Air Patrol and didn’t immediately receive a response.
The Super Stallion is a heavy-lift helicopter with a crew made up of a pilot, copilot, crew chief, and mechanic or gunner, according to the Naval Air Systems Command. The Marine Corps is replacing the variant with the CH-53K King Stallion, which is three times as powerful.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.