SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — Rescuers are facing challenging conditions as they try to reach a Marine Corps helicopter that went down in the mountains outside San Diego. The CH-53E Super Stallion, known for its ability to fly in harsh conditions, disappeared during a heavy snowstorm in California.
Civilian authorities located the aircraft near the mountain community of Pine Valley, about 45 miles from San Diego, but heavy snow has made it difficult to gain access to the site. The fate of the five troops aboard the helicopter remains unknown.
The troops were returning home from training at Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas when the helicopter went missing. Heavy downpours and snowfall in the region may have contributed to the disappearance of the aircraft.
Authorities have deployed additional resources to navigate the sparsely populated mountains, where heavy snowfall continues. The National Weather Service has issued warnings for 6 to 10 inches of snow in the mountains above 5,000 feet and gusty winds.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, and the National Security Council is closely monitoring the search efforts. The CH-53E Super Stallion, capable of operating in bad weather and at night, has been involved in previous military operations, including rescue missions in Mogadishu and Iraq.
In 2018, a similar helicopter crashed in the same area, resulting in the death of four Marines. The Marine Corps ruled out pilot error and families later sued companies for providing a defective part. The ongoing search and rescue mission is a testament to the dangers and challenges faced by the military during training and operations.