By Julie Watson And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press on February 7, 2024.
SAN DIEGO (AP) – Crews were searching for a Marine Corps helicopter carrying five troops from Nevada to California that was reported overdue early Wednesday as an historic storm continued drenching California.
The Marines were flying a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, where they had been doing unit-level training and were returning home to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, defense officials said.
It was not immediately known what time the helicopter left Creech nor what time they were due to arrive. Waves of heavy downpours hit the area throughout the night and snow was forecast for San Diego County mountains.
The five U.S. Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar Air Station in San Diego, the Marine Corps said in a statement.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was notified at 1 a.m. that the craft was overdue for arrival at Miramar and was last seen in the area of Pine Valley, a mountainous region near the Cleveland National Forest about 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of downtown San Diego, Lt. Matthew Carpenter said.
The military was coordinating search and rescue efforts with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Civil Air Patrol, the Marine Corps said. Calls to the public affairs office were not answered Wednesday morning and no further details were provided in the statement.
The National Weather Service in San Diego called for 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) of snow in the mountains above 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) and gusty winds late Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon a tornado warning was issued but quickly canceled with the weather service saying the storm was not capable of forming a twister.
The CH-53E is a heavy lift helicopter is used for transporting troops and equipment in roles such as launching amphibious assaults and supply missions, according to the Naval Air System Command website. It has three engines and is about 99 feet (30 meters) long.
Baldor reported from Washington. Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.