The Marine Corps identified four Marines killed on Tuesday in a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crash near El Centro, Calif. The Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
“The loss of our Marines weighs heavy on our hearts,” Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd MAW, said in a statement.
“Our priority is to provide support for our families and HMH-465 during this critical time.”
The four Marines killed in the crash were Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, First Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad.
The CH-53E Super Stallion was part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing out of Miramar air station in San Diego.
Capt. Morgan Frazer with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing stated in a news release the practicing desert landings is a routine part of training. She further stated, “We’re supposed to practice landing in austere environments,”, “It allows them to practice landing with reduced visibilities because of the dust that gets blown up from the rotor.”
She also emphasized, this kind of training require extremely good communication among a team. This is because in minimal visibility some crew members might not be able to see anything at all.
She also stated that the crash in under investigation and that it may take months before the cause of the crash can be determined. But it is believed that the weather might have played a factor in the crash.
Chief Deputy Thomas Garcia with the Imperial Valley Sheriff’s Office, stated that it was a warm clear day and that there were no storms or rain in that area.
Deputy Coroner Derrick Lindberg with the Imperial Valley Sheriff’s Office, stated that the bodies of the four Marines had been recovered from the crash site. He also stated that the bodies of the Marines would be turned over the Marine Corps. After taking custody of the bodies the Marine Corps conduct the autopsies.
A Facebook post by the nearby Naval Air Facility in El Centro, stated “We ask that you keep these brave service members in your thoughts and prayers,”. Members of the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, took part in the search and rescue operations after the helicopter crashed.
President Donald Trump tweeted, “thoughts and prayers were with the fallen Marines” “We pray for their families, and our great @USMC,”
The CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in the U.S. military. It has been in service for over 30 years. Super Stallion is commonly used for minesweeping and transportation of dozens of troops and tons of cargo.
Two years ago, two CH-53Es collided off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii, killing 12 Marines.