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Remains of Marine killed in air crash return to San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- The remains of a 33-year-old Marine killed last week along with three fellow Miramar-based servicemen in a helicopter crash in Imperial County arrived in San Diego Saturday in preparation for funeral services.

Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley of Dayton, Ohio was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders to Greenwood Memorial Park.

“It lightens my heart a bit knowing this Marine is protected and loved and honored," said Craig Donor with the Patriot Guard Riders.

Holley, from Dayton, Ohio, and his crewmates were taking part in training exercises near El Centro when the CH-53E Super Stallion they were aboard went down for unknown reasons on the afternoon of April 3. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Holley was a son, brother, husband and above all a father. He and his wife Kasey were married in Coronado in 2007 and had built a life together in San Diego raising their 7-year-old son.

“Way too young to be without his dad, but the fortunate thing is, he has the whole Marine Corps now to support him -- and she does as well," said Donor.

Also killed in the accident were Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; 1st Lt. Samuel D. Phillips of Pinehurst, North Carolina; and Capt. Samuel A. Schultz of Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania.

The personnel, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, had flown to the remote desert area from Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms to practice making landings in unimproved terrain, according to USMC officials.

Holley enlisted in the Marines in November 2003 and deployed to Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, to Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program and with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

During his service, he received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal-Strike/Flight, and Navy and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

A ceremonial memorial service for Holley is scheduled for Tuesday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Herzog said.