A US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter has been reported missing during a flight to California, prompting an ongoing search operation, BBC reported.
The helicopter declared “overdue” by Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, had five marines on board and was en route from an airbase near Las Vegas. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is collaborating in the search for the aircraft.
The missing Marines are affiliated with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered in Miramar.
Fire crews initiated search efforts around Lake Morina, California, at 02:20 local time on Wednesday, facing challenges due to heavy snow and wintry conditions exacerbated by an ongoing winter storm in the region.
The CH-53E Super Stallion, a fixture in Marine Corps aviation since 1981, primarily serves a transport role and can accommodate up to 37 passengers. Besides troop transport, it has combat and supply transport capabilities and is utilised by US and Japanese navies.
This incident follows a previous accident in August, where a Marine Corps pilot lost his life in the crash of an F/A-18 Hornet jet in the vicinity of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The CH-53E Super Stallion saw involvement in several serious accidents, including a 2018 crash in California resulting in four fatalities during a training mission, and a collision over the Pacific near Oahu in Hawaii in January 2016, leading to the loss of 12 Marines’ lives.