Identities of Marine pilots killed in helicopter crash near Camp Pendleton/De Luz border have been released

Two Marine pilots were killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise on the border of Camp Pendleton and De Luz; the crash caused a vegetation fire that scorched 120 acres of open land before Camp Pendleton Fire and civilian crews were able to cease its growth.

Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27, were piloting an AH-1W Super Cobra when it went down for unknown reasons about 1 p.m. on September 19, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s public affairs office.

Both men died at the scene of the accident.

The blaze caused by the collision remained on military property and caused no reported structural damage or injuries relating to fire-fighting. Cal Fire crews were called to assist Camp Pendleton’s fire department and emergency services teams at the scene.

“We sent engines, aircraft, and hand crews to help fight the fire,” said Mike Mohler, a representative for Cal Fire.

According to Camp Pendleton representative Lt. Ryan Finnegan, firefighting assets used on the blaze included four air tankers, four helicopters tankers, three type-3 strike teams, four hand crews, and one forward air control aircraft. There is an investigation underway to determine the cause of the helicopter crash.

Both Bland and Heitmann had been assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Bland, a native of Champaign, Ill., joined the Marine Corps in June 1997. His military decorations include a Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, two Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medals and three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Heitmann, of Mendota, Ill., entered the Marines in May 2008. His awards include a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Lt Col. Robert Morgan, commanding officer of the training squadron in which Bland and Heitmann served, asked the public to “pray for the families of the warriors that we have lost.”

Previous Story (Mon., Sept. 19, 2011, 9 p.m.)

Two Marines killed in helicopter crash on Camp Pendleton near De Luz border, fire 80 percent contained at 120 acres

CAMP PENDLETON – A U.S. Marine Corps attack helicopter crashed at Camp Pendleton today, near the De Luz/ Fallbrook border, killing both personnel aboard and sparking a brush fire that blackened 120 acres.

The AH-1W Super Cobra went down for unknown reasons about 1 p.m. in a training area in the southeastern reaches of the USMC station, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s public affairs office.

Both occupants died at the scene of the crash, Marine officials said. Base firefighters were dispatched to extinguish the resulting blaze, which quickly spread to the north and east and grew to roughly 120 acres over the afternoon. Air tankers and helicopters, four of each, aided ground crews in attacking the flames.

The fire, which remained on military property and posed no structural threats, was about 80 percent contained by early evening, a base spokesman said.

The cause of the aviation accident was under investigation, said Cpl. Steven Posy, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.



Two Marines killed in helicopter crash, fire spreads to 50 acres

A fire sparked by a military helicopter crash has spread to approximately 50 acres, according to Camp Pendleton officials.

The fire, located at the southeast portion of Camp Pendleton, is on the border of De Luz and the base, and is currently moving northeast. The fire was sparked in what is being called a “mishap” involving an AH-1 Cobra, which belonged to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at approximately 1 p.m.

The two military personnel in the helicopter were killed in the accident. Their identities have not been released for publication.

Cal Fire crews have been called to assist Camp Pendleton’s fire department and emergency services teams at the scene of the fire.

“We have sent engines, aircraft and hand crews to help fight the fire,” said Mike Mohler, a representative for Cal Fire.

According to Camp Pendleton representative Lt. Ryan Finnegan, firefighting assets include four air tankers, four helicopters tankers, three type-3 strike teams, four hand crews, and one forward air control aircraft.

There will be an investigation to determine the cause of the helicopter incident.

While the vegetation fire, located west of Fallbrook, poses no threat at the time, North County Fire officials state De Luz residents should the monitor situation.

Watch this site as more information becomes available.

Previous story follows

Two killed in military helicopter crash near Camp Pendleton/De Luz border

Cal Fire called to the scene; air support requested

A military helicopter crash has killed two military personnel and caused a small brush fire along the De Luz/Camp Pendleton border.

According to Sgt. Sean McGinty, a representative from Miramar Air Station, an AH-1 ��Cobra,�� which belonged to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, ��had a mishap�� at approximately 1 p.m.

The identities of the two military personnel aboard the helicopter have not been released for publication.

Camp Pendleton�’s fire department and emergency services teams responded to the scene.

There will be an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.

Officials stated a small brush fire, approximately the size of an acre, was caused by the accident. While the vegetation fire, located west of Fallbrook, poses no threat at the time, North County Fire officials state De Luz residents should the monitor situation.

Watch this site as more information becomes available.

9 Responses to "Identities of Marine pilots killed in helicopter crash near Camp Pendleton/De Luz border have been released"

  1. DeLuz Resident   September 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Condolences to those involved in this tragedy and the families who’ve lost loved ones.

    We live close to Camp P. The choppers frequently fly over here training. It’s very smokey in DeLuz. Typically, the breeze picks up in the afternoon. That could push the fire back into these steep canyons. I sure hope not. We’re located off Carancho Road approximately 4 miles NE of Welburn Gourd Farm. There’s not much news about this event. We’ll monitor this site for updates. Please keep us informed.

    Reply
  2. SB   September 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    My deepest condolences to the families.

    FVN can you please update us on this fire? We live close to De Luz, and I’m hearing a lot of sirens this afternoon. Would really like an update.

    Reply
  3. fbkmom2two   September 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I am so saddened to hear of this tragic crash. I always admire the copters and planes that fly above us and the brave and talented pilots and mechanics who keep them in the air. This will be a great loss to the local military community. Their families will be in my thoughts.

    Reply
  4. Deluz resident   September 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    4:17
    We live on the North west border of Deluz just above Murrieta…Its VERY smokey. Is that fire out??? I have lots animals and a wheelchairbound neighbor to move?

    Reply
  5. MalloryMel   September 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    6.5 mile marker, De Luz Road, south of Daily Road secure for now 5:15pm.
    ash falling, slight smoke., Heavy helicopter activity & Fire Vehicle staging

    Reply
  6. De Luz Neighbor   September 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    We look down on the fire from our place and it looks contained.

    They stage their howitzer training in this area and have a well cleared firebreak around it. No need to worry.

    What a bummer, We had no idea a downed helicopter was the cause.

    Devastated by the news. So sorry…

    Reply
  7. Kay   September 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    My deepest condolences to families, friends, and loved ones of those who bravely served for our freedom.

    Reply
  8. Canyon Hills-Elsinore   September 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    There’s so much smoke in our area, is this all from the Camp P. fire?

    Reply
  9. De luzer   September 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    My prayers for the families of the marines. Update of the fire as of now? We’re off Daily Road and De Luz Road.

    Reply

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