Five SoCal Marines killed in helicopter crash are identified

The Marine Corps released the names Friday of the five men killed when their helicopter crashed in the Cuyamaca Mountains during a heavy storm Tuesday.

All five were based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar as members of a heavy-lift helicopter squadron in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Their aircraft, a Sikorski CH-53E Super Stallion, was also involved in a fatal crash in Southern California six years ago that claimed four lives.

According to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marines killed in Tuesday’s crash were:

  • Lance Cpl. Donovan Davis, 21, of Olathe, Kan., a CH-53E helicopter crew chief
  • Sgt. Alec Langen, 23, of Chandler, Ariz., a CH-53E helicopter crew chief
  • Capt. Benjamin Moulton, 27, of Emmett, Idaho, a CH-53E helicopter pilot
  • Capt. Jack Casey, 26, of Dover, N.H., a CH-53E helicopter pilot
  • Capt. Miguel Nava, 28, of Traverse City, Mich., a CH-53E helicopter pilot

The helicopter went down near Pine Valley, a mountainous community an hour’s drive from San Diego. The group was returning from a routine training mission to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev., northwest of Las Vegas.

At the time, visibility was poor because of snow, rain and gusty winds, according to meteorologist Philip Gonsalves with the National Weather Service in San Diego. Investigators with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing are still trying to determine what factor, if any, weather played in the crash.

“We have been confronted with a tragedy that is every service family’s worst fear,” Lt. Col. Nicholas J. Harvey, commanding officer of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, said in a statement. “Our top priority now is supporting the families of our fallen heroes, and we ask for your respect and understanding as they grieve.”

Davis was just promoted to lance corporal on Jan. 1, having enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 2019. His decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Langen had been a sergeant since October 2022, having enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 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 was commissioned into the Marines in March 2019 and was promoted to captain in August. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal.

Casey was promoted to captain in September, having been commissioned into the Marine Corps in May 2019. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal.

Nava had served as a captain since November 2021; he was commissioned into the Marines in May 2017. His decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.