Frantic Search For Chopper Underway With 5 Marines Missing

U.S. military officials confirmed Wednesday that a search is underway for a missing helicopter with five Marines aboard. The flight left Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and was destined for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego on Tuesday.

It was reported overdue and the search commenced. Rescue efforts by the Marine Corps are being assisted by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the Civil Air Patrol, and Cal Fire.

The last known location of the aircraft, a CH-53E Super Stallion, was the Cleveland National Forest. The weather in that region is described as cold and snowy, and initial efforts to locate the chopper there were unsuccessful.

The missing personnel were part of the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, which is part of Marine Aircraft Group 16 and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The Marine Corps said the area experienced an atmospheric river storm.

Cal Fire received notification at approximately 2:20 a.m. PST that the helicopter did not arrive at its destination when expected. The vehicle was last known to be north of Interstate 8.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office initially attempted to deploy a search helicopter, but that effort was tabled due to the atmospheric river. Officials do not know if the weather part had any effect on the missing chopper.

The Sheriff’s Department is currently assisting the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is coordinating the search and rescue.

The local area experienced intense storms in recent days, and San Diego has endured heavy rain since Tuesday night. Nearby mountains received several inches of snow.

Wind gusts were reported up to 20 m.p.h. Tuesday evening and were likely much stronger in higher elevations.

The missing CH-53E Super Stallion is described as a heavy-lift helicopter that is utilized by Marine forces across the globe. It is counted on to quickly move troops and equipment from vessels to the shore, spearhead amphibious attacks, ensure supply lines, and equip military personnel.

The U.S. Navy reported the aircraft is capable of hauling as much as 16 tons of cargo.