A U.S. Marine helicopter made an emergency landing on a beach in north San Diego Wednesday after receiving a low oil pressure indicator, U.S. Marine Corps officials confirmed.
San Diego lifeguards reported that a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter had landed near Del Mar Shores Beach in Solana Beach, south of Fletcher Cove, at around 11:40 a.m.
Firefighters and Hazardous Materials crews were called to the scene to investigate the chopper for a possible fuel leak.
The large chopper could be seen disabled on the shoreline as officials and onlookers gathered.
Officials from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) tweeted that the chopper made the unexpected landing on the beach "due to a low-pressure indicator light in the aircraft."
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar) also confirmed that the CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 had executed the precautionary landing in Solana Beach.
"The aircraft was conducting routine training and the pilots landed the aircraft safely on Solana Beach with no injuries to personnel," MCAS Miramar officials said. "A Hazardous Material Team has been dispatched to clean up and assess the site."
Marine Corps officials said the aircraft would likely return to MCAS Miramar Wednesday afternoon.
Staff Sgt. Bobbie Curtis said the CH-53E is a “heavy-lift helicopter that has a large set of mission capabilities.”
“It can go from ship to shore, help us with all of our amphibious missions,” he added.
Curtis said the crew aboard the aircraft handled the landing well.
“These pilots are well-trained – so are the air crew members – so they know exactly what to do in a situation like this,” he said.
Encinitas Fire Department Battalion Chief John Blumeyer said the department was tipped off to the beachside chopper landing by several 911 calls and reports from lifeguards.
When firefighters arrived, they noticed the aircraft was leaking fluid, Blumeyer said. Crews quickly worked to clean up the fluid and prevent it from leaking into the ocean.
“There’s a little bit of a time crunch. The tide is supposed to shift here [soon]. We have plans for mitigating [the situation] if they can’t fly out the helicopter before the tide comes in,” the battalion chief added.
The sight of the enormous chopper landing on the beach was a huge surprise to residents and beachgoers, including Tyler Clarke.
Clarke told NBC 7 he was lying on the beach about 100 yards away from the landing site when he heard the helicopter coming down.
“I could hear the propeller blowing water out and oil was going everywhere,” Clarke recalled. “You could see oil and smoke coming out of the water and [the helicopter] just kept getting lower and lower, and then just landed.”
Clarke said watching the Marine chopper land on the shore was both intense and surreal.
“Not your normal day at the beach, that’s for sure,” he added.
A Solana Beach resident said she was sitting at her nearby home with her husband when they heard the helicopter coming onto the beach.
“I had no idea what was going on. It was incredibly loud and sort of frightening, to be honest,” she told NBC 7. “We were sitting in our house – we have big windows – and we literally saw the helicopter come down and land on this beach. I could’ve been walking my dog.”
Among the witnesses was musician Kenny Loggins, who said in a video post on Facebook that he had been out for a walk.
“I walked out there and said, ‘You’re in the ‘Danger Zone,’" he said in a reference to his hit song, which was featured in the movie "Top Gun."