IMPERIAL — A U.S. Marine helicopter burned on the Imperial County Airport runway close to southbound Highway 86 on Thursday afternoon, June 6.
Motorists slowed down in both northbound and southbound lanes on Highway 86. However, Imperial police units kept motorists moving and prevented them from stopping along the highway. Unmarked cars were also visible guarding the helicopter both inside and outside the highway fence.
Isabel Flores, a motorist heading to her home in Brawley, saw heavy smoke covering and rising from the military helicopter.
“As I got closer to the airport, the traffic slowed down. There was a lot of black smoke covering the helicopter,” said Flores. There were also fire department units attempting to put out the fire.
A press release from the Naval Air Facility El Centro stated, “At approximately 1 p.m. PST, a CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, experienced an in-flight fire during a routine training mission ... The aircraft landed safely at the Imperial County Airport in Imperial … The Imperial County Fire Department swiftly extinguished the rapidly spreading fire after the aircraft landed,” stated the press release. “There were no injuries to personnel. The cause of this incident is currently under investigation.”
A photo of the helicopter showed a burned cockpit, the front of the helicopter on the ground, and its front landing wheel not visible.