Officials with MCAS Miramar have confirmed two U.S. Marine pilots onboard the AH-1W attack helicopter, also known as a “Super Cobra,” were killed when their helicopter crashed just before midnight Tuesday east of San Diego.
The Marines are part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and fly with a squadron based out of Camp Pendleton and overseen by MCAS Miramar. The pilots were flying as part of a pre-deployment training exercise Tuesday night. Military officials could not confirm the helicopter’s direction of flight when it went down.
The U.S. Forest Service and CAL Fire said they received a call about a brush fire near Interstate 8 and Kitchen Creek Road near the Cleveland National Forest around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. Fire crews said they were alerted by the military that a helicopter was missing. Firefighters were warned to stay a quarter of a mile away from the crash site because of the threat of live ammunition aboard the aircraft.
The fire burned itself out but not before burning one or two acres of a remote and rugged area surrounding the crash site.
A command post has been set up at Kitchen Creek Road in Pine Valley. Around 100 people from CAL Fire, U.S. Forest Service and the military are working together in the investigation. There are still hot spots and fire crews are staged to respond if there is a flare-up.
Military officials are surveying the crash site from the air trying to identify the ordnance among the wreckage.
"If they're in preparation for a deployment these Marines are definitely at the top of their game," said Major Jay De La Rosa, spokesperson for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. "These aviators are highly trained and highly skilled and safety is one of the main priorities."
"I don't know these two Marines. I don't know their identities just yet but my hearts and prayers do go out to their families because this is a horrible loss," De La Rosa said.