One of the five U.S. Marines killed in Tuesday’s helicopter crash in San Diego County has been identified, the Marine’s family confirmed to NBC 7 on Thursday.
Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, of Chandler, Arizona, was aboard the CH-53E helicopter that went down during stormy weather in the mountains outside of San Diego, according to his mother, Caryn Langen.
“Alec Langen was one of the Marines that was on board the helicopter that crashed on Tuesday,” his mother said in a statement to NBC 7. “We will miss him dearly.”
A military official issued a brief statement Thursday about the helicopter crash.
Col. James Ford of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing told the media at the 3:30 p.m. news conference that all those who were aboard the aircraft were located at the scene of the crash. The Marines’ next-of-kin were all notified in person about their deaths on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, according to Ford.
NBC 7’s Dana Williams breaks down the latest information after a military official issued a brief statement about the helicopter crash that killed five U.S. Marines near Pine Valley.
Since they were found, Ford said, fellow Marines have remained vigilant at their side, near the small East County community of Pine Valley. Their remains were and continue to be guarded by brothers and sisters, Ford said.
On Thursday, military operations shifted to a focus on a recovery mission, which, due to the weather, was currently taking place on the ground.
Ford said the Marine Corps will continue to focus on the families through their difficult days ahead.
The other victims have not yet been publicly identified, nor did Ford take any questions from the media at the news conference.
The five Marines were traveling on the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, flying from Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, when it was reported “overdue” Tuesday, the Marine Corps said. They had been conducting unit-level training near Las Vegas before their return.
“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3d Marine Aircraft Wing and the “Flying Tigers,” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement.
The names of the Marines were not immediately released. Efforts to recover the remains of the Marines and equipment have begun and an investigation is underway, it was confirmed in a release.
NBC 7’s Steven Luke reports breaking news.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden are “heartbroken” to learn of the Marines’ deaths.
“Our service members represent the very best of our nation — and these five Marines were no exception,” Biden said. “As the Department of Defense continues to assess what occurred, we extend our deepest condolences to their families, their squadron, and the U.S. Marine Corps as we grieve the loss of five of our nation’s finest warriors.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom also issued a statement:
“California joins the nation in mourning the tremendous loss of these Marines. Jennifer and I send our heartfelt condolences to their families, loved ones, and fellow service members during this painful time. Their dedication to serving our country will always be remembered.”
The flags at the State Capitol and Capitol Annex Swing Space will be flown at half-staff in honor of the Marines.
The last known location of the helicopter came from a ping to Cal Fire’s dispatch center at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Cal Fire sent several engines and an ambulance to the area overnight. The helicopter was found in Pine Valley at around 9:08 a.m. Wednesday, a spokesperson from MCAS Miramar said.
Ground and aviation teams continued their search for the aircrew near Interstate 8 and Kitchen Creek Road.
The military worked with federal, state and local agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Border Patrol, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the state Civil Air Patrol.
The search came as San Diego was experiencing a winter storm that produced heavy rain since Tuesday night and has brought several inches of snow to the mountains.
The CH-53E Super Stallion is the heavy-lift helicopter used by Marines around the world. It is capable of rapidly transporting troops and equipment from ship-to-shore: launching amphibious assaults, facilitating logistics and maintenance, providing sustainment and supplies, and equipping the warfighter for mission success, according to the Navy.
No other information was available.
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