By JULIE WATSON and LOLITA C. BALDOR

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Five U.S. Marines aboard a helicopter that went down during stormy weather in the mountains outside of San Diego are confirmed dead, the military said Thursday, Feb. 8.

Authorities say the CH-53E Super Stallion vanished late Tuesday night while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego after training at Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas.

“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3d Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers,’ ” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement.

The names of the Marines were not immediately released.

“To the families of our fallen Marines, we send our deepest condolences,” Borgshulte said. “Though we understand the inherent risks of military service, any loss of life is always difficult.”

Efforts to recover the remains of the five have begun and an investigation into the crash is underway, according to the statement.

Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon, spokesperson for the wing, said she had little information beyond the statement.

“I do know that it’s cold. … I know that’s been a contentious issue” for searchers in reaching the crash site.

The last known contact with the helicopter was at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mike Cornette of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told CBS 8 news.

The craft was discovered Wednesday morning near the mountain community of Pine Valley, an hour’s drive from San Diego.

Civilian authorities searching on ground and by air found the aircraft, which went down during stormy weather in the Southern California mountains, about 45 miles from San Diego.

The helicopter, designed to fly in harsh conditions, went missing as an historic storm dumped heavy snow and record rain over California. Wednesday night, searchers battled heavy snow to reach the helicopter.

The five Marines were assigned to Miramar’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the military said in a statement.

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