Missing U.S. military helicopter found in Southern California; search continues for 5 Marines who were on board

by 24USATVFeb. 8, 2024, 4 p.m. 22
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Update: The Marine Corps said Thursday that the five Marines died when their helicopter crashed.

A U.S. military helicopter that went missing while carrying five Marines from Nevada to California has been found, authorities said Wednesday. Search and rescue crews were looking for the Marines as snow and rain were hitting the mountainous area where the helicopter was located in Southern California, the Marine Corps said.

The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter was found east of San Diego in Pine Valley, California, at 9:08 a.m., several hours after authorities launched search efforts, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said on social media. Federal agencies, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the Civil Air Patrol were involved in the search.

The helicopter was flying from Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego on Tuesday when it was reported overdue, the Marine Corps said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on board Air Force One en route to New York City that President Biden had been briefed on the search efforts.

The helicopter's last-known location was reported at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. The sheriff's department received a call just after 1 a.m. that the helicopter was overdue at Miramar, a spokesperson told CBS News.

Firefighters were initially dispatched to the helicopter's last-known location around the Cleveland National Forest, a spokesperson with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's San Diego office told CBS News. The area had rugged terrain and heavy snow was falling, the spokesperson said. Nothing was found at the location.

Cal Fire asked the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Border Patrol to help with the search effort. The forest is located near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The sheriff's department spokesperson told CBS News that heavy cloud cover early Wednesday morning prevented the agency from deploying its helicopter to contribute to the search effort.

Rain, snow showers and fog were forecast for the area, with 1 to 3 inches of snow during the day in some parts, according to the National Weather Service's San Diego office. By Wednesday night, snow accumulation was forecast to be 4 to 6 inches in some areas.

The five missing Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marine Corps said.

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