An Osprey aircraft carrying five Marines crashed near Glamis, Calif., located just north of the Mexican border, at about 12:25 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
“We ask for the public’s patience as we work diligently with first responders and the unit to identify what occurred this afternoon,” the Marines said in an emailed statement.
The Marines denied posts circulating on social media that asserted the aircraft may have been carrying nuclear material. “There was no nuclear material on board the aircraft,” the Marines said.
Officials in Imperial County, where Glamis is located, could not immediately be reached for comment. But county officials wrote on social media that they were aware of a downed aircraft and were providing assistance. Glamis, located east of San Diego, is a desert area known for its sand dunes.
Osprey aircraft, used by the U.S. and Japanese militaries, take off and land vertically like helicopters, but fly like airplanes. The MV-22B — which combines the flexibility of a chopper that can operate in diverse environments, with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft — is primarily used to transport troops and equipment in support of amphibious assaults.
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But the aircraft’s safety record has been under scrutiny. More than 40 people have died while flying on Ospreys since 1991.
In March, an Osprey crashed during NATO exercises in Norway, killing four American service members. In 2017, a Marine Osprey crashed in Syria, injuring two. That year, a crash in Australia also left three Marines dead. In 2014, an Osprey briefly lost power while flying over the Persian Gulf, resulting in one Marine fatality. One of the deadliest crashes came in April 2000, when all 19 Marines aboard an Osprey were killed.
A spokesman for Bell, which manufactures the Osprey in partnership with Boeing, said the company was awaiting details of the incident but was ready to assist the Marine Corps.
The Osprey was also involved in five “Class B” mishaps in the last fiscal year, according to the Naval Safety Center. It defines the mishaps as incidents that cause between $600,000 and $2.5 million of property damage, and lead to permanent partial disability or three hospitalizations.