Helicopter crash in California kills two Marines and starts wildfire

By Calvin Palmer

Two pilots in the Marine Corps were killed when their helicopter crashed in Southern California last night.

The Super Cobra attack helicopter from the Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station crashed shortly before midnight north of Interstate 8 at Kitchen Creek Road in the Cleveland National Forest in eastern San Diego County.

The crash started a fire resulting in a number of 911 calls to authorities, said Capt. Daryll Pina of the California Department of Forestry.

During the drive to the scene of the crash fire commanders received a report from the air station that a helicopter with live ordnance was missing.

Fire crews waited for the fire to burn itself out before approaching the scene because of the fear of explosions, Pina said. The fire covered about two acres.

A Defense Department accident investigation team is checking what, if any, ordnance the helicopter was carrying.

The helicopter was part of the Camp Pendleton-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit training for a six-month deployment in the western Pacific.

[Based on reports by the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press.]

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