A heavy-lift helicopter with five Marines onboard that was reported missing late Tuesday has been located by local authorities in the California town of Pine Valley, just east of San Diego, the U.S. Marine Corps said.
However, the five Marines flying the CH-53E Super Stallion have not yet been located, officials said. A massive, multiagency search-and-rescue operation is currently underway for the missing crew.
The helicopter had departed from Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, just outside Las Vegas, on “a routine training flight” Tuesday night. It went missing on its way to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said Wednesday morning.
When the aircraft was reported “overdue” in the early hours of Wednesday, officials initiated a search for the missing chopper.
Just before 2 a.m., the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department received a call from the Marine Corps, asking for assistance in the search operation.
The helicopter was located by local authorities in Pine Valley just after 9 a.m. local time. But ground and aviation teams continue to search for the five Marines, officials said.
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing coordinated search-and-rescue efforts with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the Civil Air Patrol, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and other agencies.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s confirmed they were requested to help search for the missing helicopter near Interstate 8 and Kitchen Creek Road in East County.
The area is currently covered in snow, which complicates search efforts, officials said.
“Additional resources have been requested to assist with the rescue near Pine Valley due to heavy snow,” Cal Fire said in a statement.
The sheriff’s helicopter unit has a crew on standby and ready to launch if weather conditions change and allow for safer flying conditions.
“We will continue joint operations in our steadfast attempts to locate the missing crew,” the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said.