Marine helicopter lifts off beach after emergency landing

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SOLANA BEACH, Calif. -- A fluid leak forced the crew of a military helicopter on a routine training flight out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Wednesday to make a safe precautionary landing at Del Mar Shores Beach.

The CH-53E Super Stallion landed around 11:30 a.m. on a strip of sand off the 700 block of South Sierra Avenue, just north of Del Mar, sheriff's Lt. James Bolwerk said. The pilots and crew member aboard the aircraft were uninjured and walking around the beach following the landing in an area known as "Rock Piles."

Preliminary investigation determined the crew of the copter decided to land due to the aircraft's low pressure indicator alerting them, according to Bolwerk.  The low pressure indicator is an alert system used when there is an issue with the engine.

"[The pilots] did exactly what they were supposed to do – find a good, safe place to put the aircraft down and check it out," Rich Martindell, military aviation expert.

Marine mechanics were able to get the aircraft, assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, sufficiently patched up for it to be flown off the beach about 3:30 p.m. The pilots flew the aircraft to the west parking lot of the Del Mar Fairgrounds for further evaluation.

The CH-53, a heavy lift copter, is known to be flown out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Camp Pendleton. It is the largest and heaviest helicopter used by the United States military.  The two-pilot helicopter can hold up to 37 troops while in flight.

Lifeguards and firefighters assisted military crews with shoveling oil off the beach and into yellow buckets.

Del Mar resident Donna was getting ready to leave the beach when she saw the helicopter.

"I look and it's coming down. It's turning and the water was coming up like Niagra Falls," Donna said.  "It was amazing and scary - I didn't know if it was crashing or trying to land. It was so loud. Thank God everyone is okay."

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