The parents of the 23-year-old Sgt. Alec Langen has identified him as one of five Marines who tragically died when their CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed in the mountains near San Diego on Tuesday.
In a heartbreaking interview with ABC San Diego, Steve and Caryn Langen revealed that their son got married just over a month before his death. It was his new wife who told his parents that her son had not returned home after the accident.
“He died with people he wanted to be with, doing what he loved and wanted to do,” his father told the station through tears. His son, originally from Arizona, had served as crew chief on the doomed flight.
The grieving father, a former Marine, added: “I would give anything to change places.”
The Army confirmed Thursday that the five Marines died when their helicopter crashed during a storm and efforts were underway to recover their remains.
Sergeant. Alec Langen photographed on his father’s Facebook page. he was 23 years old
In a heartbreaking interview with ABC San Diego, Steve and Caryn Langen revealed that their son got married just over a month before his death.
It was his new wife who told his parents that their son had not returned home after the accident.
Marine Corps officials notified the families in person, while Marines have been stationed 24 hours a day at the site to stay with the remains, said Col. James C. Ford, operations officer for the Marine Corps. the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Francisco. Diego.
In his interview, Steve Langen revealed that he also served on the same helicopter as his son for the Marines from 1986 to 1995.
‘We are very grateful to the San Diego first responders who went there, searched for them and found that team. Without them, they wouldn’t come home,” her mother said.
According to a post by his mother on Facebook, Alec married his wife Casey in early January and planned to move to North Carolina, where he would be stationed.
Citing the “dangerous terrain and weather” at the site, Ford said terrain reclamation efforts will take place over the next few weeks while an investigation into the crash is conducted.
Under military policy, Marines’ names are not released until 24 hours after all next of kin have been notified.
“He died with people he wanted to be with, doing what he loved and wanted to do,” his father said through tears.
The Arizona native had served as a crew chief on the doomed flight. He appears in the photo above on a different flight.
Authorities are still working to recover the Marines’ remains. Sergeant. Alec Langen appears on the right
Marine Corps leaders Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden expressed their condolences.
“It is with great sadness and deep sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers,'” Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgschulte, the wing’s commander, said in a statement.
Authorities say the CH-53E Super Stallion disappeared Tuesday night while conducting flight training on its way back to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego from Creech Air Force Base, northwest from Las Vegas.
The last known contact with the Super Stallion was around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, as waves of downpours and snow hit the region, Mike Cornette of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told CBS 8 News.
That location was based on a ‘ping’ reported to a Cal Fire dispatch center.
The Navy helicopter took off from Nevada to San Diego on Tuesday night.
The CH-53E Super Stallion is the heavy lift helicopter most used by the Marines to transport troops and equipment.
Marines fly the model in “the most challenging environments you can imagine,” said Timothy Loranger, a former Marine Corps aircraft mechanic and now a civilian pilot and aviation accident lawyer.
“But even knowing that, it’s important for decision makers to decide if the risk is worth it,” he said.
‘There was a training mission here with the crew flying back to Miramar, so you have to ask, why fly in this weather now? Was it bad judgment or some pilot error issue? These are very important questions to ask yourself.’
A mechanical problem in bad weather would also make flying even more difficult.
And although the helicopter was designed for bad weather, ice buildup on the rotor blades could impair the ability to create lift for the craft and cause it to crash, Loranger said.
This will all be part of the investigation, Loranger said, adding that it is too early to speculate on what happened. He said the Super Stallion has a long history of being reliable, but it’s not perfect.
The craft was discovered Wednesday morning near Pine Valley, about an hour’s drive from San Diego.
The helicopter was headed to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, known as the home of the show Top Gun and the movie of the same name.
The mountain community sits at about 3,700 feet elevation in the Cuyamaca Mountains, an area that saw up to 8 inches of snow accumulate in a matter of hours Tuesday night and early Wednesday and more fell Wednesday night , meteorologists said.
The area includes San Diego County’s second-highest mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, at 6,512 feet, and is also near the Cleveland National Forest, which covers 720 square miles, much of it steep, rocky and with limited trails.
The five Marines were assigned to Miramar Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Miramar.
Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon, a spokeswoman for the wing, said she had little information beyond the statement, but noted that recovery efforts were being hampered by snowfall from the storm moving out of California on Thursday.
“I know it’s cold… I know it’s been a contentious issue” for investigators arriving at the crash site, he said.
About 99 feet long and weighing nearly 35 tons, the CH-53E Super Stallion has been used in combat and other operations around the world for more than three decades, including in Beirut, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, according to a US Navy website.
In 2018, four Miramar Marines died when their Super Stallion crashed near El Centro, near the California-Mexico border, during a training mission.
The Marine Corps ruled out pilot error in the crash. The victims’ families later sued two companies that they alleged provided a defective part that they blamed for the accident.
In 2005, a Super Stallion sank in a sandstorm in Iraq, killing 31 people on board. The crash, attributed to pilot error, was the deadliest loss of American troops during the war.
More than 130 are in operation.
Nicknamed the “hurricane maker” because of the downdraft from its three engines, the Super Stallion has a range of approximately 640 miles. It was designed to carry up to 55 soldiers or about 16 tons of cargo.