Naval Air Facility officials confirmed that a U.S. Marine helicopter crashed on Tuesday near El Centro, California.
The marine helicopter identified as a CH-53E Super Stallion was involved in a Southern California training mission when it crashed shortly after 2:30 p.m. local time (5:30 p.m. EDT), a few miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. Reports stated all four crew members on board were presumed dead.
Reports stated that the helicopter was with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, out of Miramar air station in San Diego, and that it was the nearby Naval Air Facility El Centro who confirmed the crash site was somewhere north of Plaster City, California.
The cause of the crash is still being investigated and the names of the crew members will be revealed after 24 hours, once their next of kin is notified.
A report in the Tri-city Herald, a daily newspaper based in Kennewick, Washington, said Tuesday’s crash was the deadliest crash that involved a Marine aircraft since last July during which a KC130T transport plane crashed in Mississippi.
The helicopter involved in Tuesday’s incident, the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion is reportedly the largest and the heaviest in the United States Military. It was developed from the CH-53 Sea Stallion by adding a third engine, a seventh blade to the main rotor and by canting the tail rotor 20 degrees. The helicopter was built by Sirosky Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturer based in Stratford, Connecticut, for the U.S. Marine Corps. It is essentially used for minesweeping, transportation and is capable of carrying dozens of troops and tons of cargo.
This is not the first time a CH-53E was involved in a deadly crash. In October 2017, a similar helicopter caught fire in mid-flight and crash-landed on grazing land on a private property in Okinawa, Japan.
The helicopter was taking part in a routine training drill when the pilot had to make an emergency landing, 300 meters away from a house outside the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area. During that incident, none of the seven U.S. military personnel were injured nor were any residents harmed, the Asahi Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, reported.
In another incident from two years ago, 12 Marines died when two such helicopters collided off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii as a result of pilot error, poor training, and command problems, CBS News reported.