A Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed during a routine training mission Tuesday in California, killing the four crew members aboard, the Marine Corps said.
The heavy lift helicopter was part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and was flying near El Centro, California, when the crash occurred at approximately 2:35 p.m. local time, the Marines said in a statement released early Wednesday.
“The status of all four is presumed dead pending positive identification,” the Marine Corps said. Names would be withheld pending next-of-kin notification.
Lt. Col. Michael E. Hernandez was relieved of command on Dec. 2.
It was the second Marine Corps aviation crash to occur Tuesday. A Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed after takeoff in Djibouti Tuesday. The pilot ejected and was in stable condition, the Marines reported. The pilot and aircraft are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima.
The Marines have intensively focused on improving the readiness of the CH-53E since the January 2016 collision of two Super Stallions off the coast of Hawaii, which killed 12 Marines.
An October 2017 crash of a CH-53 in Okinawa led the Marine Corps to temporarily ground its Japan-based fleet; no service members were injured in that crash, which destroyed the aircraft.