Marine Copter Crashes; All 5 on Board Die

Associated Press

A Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed during night training, killing all five crew members, authorities said today. It was the latest in a series of CH-53E crashes.

The big helicopter went down on the Salton Sea Test Range about 8:30 p.m. Thursday while practicing night landings for troop deployment, said Maj. Anthony Rothfork, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon.

"It was making an approach into the landing zone when it crashed and burned," Rothfork said today.

The CH-53E was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 at Tustin Air Station.

U.S. Rep. Robert Badham (R-Newport Beach), who last year called for a study of the CH-53E, said preliminary reports received through his staff and staff of the House Armed Services Committee "were couched in terms" indicating that there was no mechanical failure.

The three-engine helicopter is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Co. of Stratford, Conn., at a cost of $24 million each. It is capable of performing naval minesweeping functions, carrying 56 troops or hauling 32,000 pounds of cargo, Rothfork said.

Rothfork said the Marine Corps has recorded five major CH-53E accidents involving a death or at least $100,000 damage by the end of 1986. The aircraft became operational in 1981.

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