A Marine Corps helicopter, carrying five troops, has been located in a mountainous area outside San Diego after it went missing during a historic storm that has been drenching California. The aircraft was discovered near the mountain community of Pine Valley, about a 45-mile drive from San Diego. However, snowy conditions have made it difficult for rescue crews to access the site.
The missing helicopter, a CH-53E Super Stallion, was en route from Creech Air Force Base to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The troops had been engaged in unit-level training in Las Vegas before their return flight. As of now, it is unclear when the helicopter departed from Creech or when it was expected to arrive in San Diego.
The five Marines on board belonged to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, which is part of Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was notified of the overdue arrival at 1 a.m., and the helicopter was last spotted in the Pine Valley area near the Cleveland National Forest, approximately 35 miles east of downtown San Diego.
The military continues to collaborate with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol to carry out search-and-rescue operations.
Stay tuned for further updates on this developing story.
Heavy Snowfall Hampers Access to California Mountains
The Cleveland National Forest, which spans an area of 720 square miles, is known for its steep, rocky terrain with limited trails. The National Weather Service in San Diego has forecasted six to 10 inches of snow in the mountains above 5,000 feet, along with strong gusty winds expected later on Wednesday. Although a tornado warning was issued on Tuesday afternoon, it was swiftly canceled as the storm did not possess the necessary conditions for a twister formation.
President Joe Biden was updated regarding the situation concerning the missing Marines, as White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre revealed. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby added that their thoughts were with those affected as they closely monitored the situation.
With its immense size and weight, the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is considered the largest in the military. Equipped to handle adverse weather conditions and rugged terrains, including nighttime operations, this heavyweight aircraft is affectionately referred to as the “hurricane maker” due to the significant downwash produced by its three powerful engines. In January 1990, two CH-53E helicopters were instrumental in a rescue mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, where they successfully evacuated American and foreign allies from the besieged U.S. embassy.