5 Marines killed in helicopter crash are identified

The U.S. Marine Corps on Friday released the identities of the five Marines who were killed after their helicopter crashed while flying from Nevada to California during a routine training mission.

They were Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, 21, of Olathe, Kansas; Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, of Chandler, Arizona; Capt. Benjamin Moulton, 27, of Emmett, Idaho; Capt. Jack Casey, 26, of Dover, New Hampshire; and Capt. Miguel Nava, 28, of Traverse City, Michigan.

All were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. They were based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The helicopter they were in, a CH-53E Super Stallion, went missing Tuesday and was found Wednesday in a remote area covered in snow in Southern California.

The crew was flying from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, north of Las Vegas, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, “when the aircraft was reported overdue,” the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said in a statement.

It’s unclear what caused the crash, which occurred as a winter storm brought days of heavy rain and snow to the San Diego area.

An investigation is ongoing.

Nava, one of the pilots aboard the helicopter, had just become a father, his family said.

He and his wife welcomed a baby boy about four months ago, according to Javier Nava, the pilot’s father.

“His wife is just destroyed,” he told NBC News before boarding a flight to San Diego.

Javier Nava said he had just spoken to his son a few days ago. Because the elder Nava was driving a far distance, his son called to make sure he was well-rested and not driving if he was tired.

“He was always that way,” he said.

The Marine Corps said Nava was commissioned in 2017 and received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His father said he was dedicated to his family and the nation and that he loved flying.

“Miguel was a human being to be admired,” he said.

Davis, a helicopter crew chief, enlisted in 2019 and was promoted last month to the rank of Lance Corporal, the Marine Corps said.

His father, a retired Navy Captain and pilot, said the family was “struggling to understand the operational necessity for flying into one of the worst storms in southern California history.”

“We ask that the Department of Defense conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances behind the decisions that [led] to this event so that we may have some understanding and closure for the seemingly senseless loss of our son and brother,” Gregory Davis said in a statement.

The younger Davis’ decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His father said he was an “amazing young man who took his job seriously and was proud to be a Marine.”

“There are no words to describe how saddened we are by his tragic loss. We grieve for the fact that his life ended so prematurely and he will always be in our hearts,” Gregory Davis said.

Langen, also a helicopter crew chief, enlisted in 2017. His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Moulton, Casey and Nava were all pilots aboard the Super Stallion.

Moulton and Casey were both commissioned in 2019 and received the National Defense Service Medal.

“We have been confronted with a tragedy that is every service family’s worst fear,” Lt. Col. Nicholas J. Harvey, commanding officer of HMH-361, said in a statement Friday.

“Our top priority now is supporting the families of our fallen heroes, and we ask for your respect and understanding as they grieve,” Harvey added. “The Flying Tigers family stands strong and includes the friends and community who have supported our squadron during this challenging time. We will get through this together.”

The Marines have been using the powerful Super Stallion to transport heavy equipment, supplies and troops for more than 30 years, according to the Navy, which the Marine Corps is part of.

The aircraft has been previously scrutinized due to repeated mechanical failures. In 2014, a Super Stallion carrying 25 service members crashed due to the catastrophic failure of one of the aircraft’s engines, although all the passengers survived.

Then in 2018, four Marines were killed when their Super Stallion crashed during a training mission in Southern California. A Marine investigation found the crash was caused by a defective part, according to a lawsuit filed by the families of the Marines against the supplier and manufacturer of the part.

The case was settled two years ago, according to Dave Casey, the San Diego attorney representing the pilots. The settlement is confidential.

The five pilots and crew members in the latest crash were “serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so,” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte said in a statement.

“We will forever be grateful for their call to duty and selfless service,” Borgschulte said.

In a statement Thursday, President Joe Biden called the Marines “our nation’s finest warriors.”

“Our service members represent the very best of our nation,” he said, “and these five Marines were no exception.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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