San Diego

Officials ID 4 Marines Killed in Helicopter Crash Near El Centro

Officials have identified the Marines killed when their helicopter crashed on a training mission in the California desert as four men in their 20s and 30s from the South and the Midwest.

The U.S. Marine Corps has identified the four Marines killed when their helicopter crashed Tuesday during training runs near El Centro, California.

Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, 28, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, First Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, 27, of Pinehurst, North Carolina, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Holley, 33, of Dayton, Ohio and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad, 24, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana were killed in the incident.

The men were from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS Miramar, military officials said Thursday.

Schultz and Phillips were pilots assigned to HMH-465. Holley and Conrad were CH-53 helicopter crew chiefs. 

"These 'Warhorse' Marines brought joy and laughter to so many around them, Col. Craig Leflore said in a news release. Leflore is commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16.

"They each served honorably, wore the uniform proudly and were a perfect example of what makes our Marine Corps great - its people," he said.

The Marines had left Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms and headed south to El Centro for training on aircraft landings in unimproved zones. 

Their CH-53E Super Stallion crashed at approximately 2:35 p.m. near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Tributes to Conrad, who just became a father, are pouring in on social media, including from the mayor in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and his high school football team.

Cpl. Brock Portier, a good friend and fellow Marine, says his "brother" was "the gold standard" in the corps.

Conrad's great aunt, Pam Scoggin of Texas City, Texas, says he loved serving his country.

Tuesday's California crash is the deadliest involving a Marine aircraft since a KC130T transport plane went down in Mississippi last July, killing 15 Marines and a sailor. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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