Missing helicopter with 5 Marines on board found; search for aircrew continues

 Authorities have located a US military helicopter carrying five US Marines that went missing Tuesday during a flight from Nevada to California.

According to the US Marine Corps, first responders are continuing to search for the aircrew.

"The U.S. Marine Corps is searching for five U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing," Marine Corps Air Station Miramar said in a statement Thursday. "The Marines were flying a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from Creech Air Force Base to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Feb. 6, 2024, when the aircraft was reported delayed.

"Civil authorities located the aircraft over Pine Valley, California at 9:08 a.m. PST on February 7, 2024," the statement added. "The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is managing search and rescue efforts through the Wing's Operations Command Center and utilizing ground and aviation assets to locate the aircrew in coordination with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and multiple federal, state and local agencies. "On top of that, information up to date will be released as it becomes available."

The Marines say they are in contact with the San Diego County Sheriff's Office and are coordinating search efforts. The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter took off Tuesday night from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.

The San Diego County Fire Department said first responders have requested additional resources to assist in the search effort due to heavy snowfall near Pine Valley.

Local first responders were initially contacted about the incident Wednesday morning. The San Diego Sheriff's Office immediately attempted to send a helicopter to begin a search, but the aircraft were grounded due to an "atmospheric river" storm in the area.

Cal Fire officials responded to the helicopter's last known location over the Cleveland National Forest, but found nothing.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that President Biden has been briefed on the situation.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the White House was "following this closely."

"Obviously, our hopes are for the best here," Kirby told reporters.

The incident comes nearly two months after a US Air Force Osprey crashed off the coast of Japan in December. All eight crew members on board the aircraft died in the incident.

Another Osprey crashed in August 2023 with more than 20 Marines on board. Three service members were killed and approximately 20 were injured in that incident.

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