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Marine helicopter crashes; 2 killed

A Marine Corps helicopter crashed in a remote area of Southern California, killing the only two people who were on board, authorities said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Marine Corps helicopter crashed in a remote section of a Southern California forest, killing its two experienced pilots, authorities said Wednesday.

The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crashed shortly before midnight Tuesday in the Cleveland National Forest in eastern San Diego County, killing the only two people on board, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar said in a statement.

The pilots were part of an air-combat unit that was preparing to go overseas, said Maj. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman. The helicopter was carrying live ordnance.

"To get to this level, these Marines have been through extensive, in-depth, very serious training," Delarosa said. "They were at the top of their game."

The victims' names were withheld pending notification of their families, Delarosa said. He didn't know from where the helicopter departed or if the pilots reported problems in flight.

The pilots belonged to the Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 in the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The AH-1W is a two-seat, twin-engine attack helicopter that can be armed with cannon, rockets and guided missiles.

The crash set off a one- to two-acre fire, said Captain Daryll Pina of the California Department of Forestry. Fire crews, fearing explosions, waited for the fire to burn itself out before approaching the wreckage, Pina said.

A Defense Department accident investigation team was on the scene, Pina said.