Marines End Search for 4 Copter Victims : Military: Men based at Camp Pendleton were aboard a Sea Knight that went down off Africa.

From a Times Staff Writer

The Marine Corps on Monday called off its search for four Southern California-based Marines presumed dead after the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter in which they were riding crashed last weekend off the eastern coast of Africa.

Missing since Saturday night were a helicopter pilot who had been stationed in Tustin and three infantrymen from Camp Pendleton. Fourteen other Marines, including three flight crew members from the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station and 11 Marines from Camp Pendleton, survived the crash of the transport helicopter.

The helicopter went down in 600 feet of water, 60 nautical miles off the Somalian coast at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Pacific Standard Time, during a routine training mission. The helicopter was attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is composed of personnel from Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin.

The weekend crash was the most recent in a series of accidents involving the CH-46 that have killed more than 60 people since 1980. The latest fatalities raised renewed questions about whether the helicopters, which were introduced in 1965 during the Vietnam War and are all more than 20 years old, can still provide reliable service.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation, but Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Kevin Bentley said fire was involved and five of the survivors were airlifted to a military hospital in Germany for treatment.

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