Marine from Pinehurst among 4 dead in California helicopter crash

First Lt. Samuel Phillips is seen on the flight deck in Pensacola, Fla. Phillips was one of four Marines who lost their lives in a helicopter crash Tuesday in California. (Courtesy of Eric Pickersgill)

A Marine from Moore County has been identified as one of four who died Tuesday in a helicopter crash during a training exercise in California.

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First Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, 27, of Pinehurst, was a pilot. He joined the Marine Corps in August 2013.

Phillips' previous duty stations include NAS Pensacola, NAS Corpus Christi and MCAS New River, North Carolina. He had not deployed.

"The loss of our Marines weighs heavy on our hearts," said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "Our priority is to provide support for our families and HMH-465 during this critical time."

All four Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS Miramar.

The other victims were:

- Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, 28, of Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, a pilot who joined the Marine Corps in May 2012.

Schultz' previous duty stations include Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida; Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas; and MCAS New River, North Carolina.

- Gunnery Sgt. Derik Richard Holley, 33, of Dayton, Ohio, was a CH-53 helicopter crew chief. He joined the Marine Corps in November 2003.

Holley's previous duty stations include Marine Corps Base Quantico and MCAS Miramar. He previously 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.

Holley's personal awards consist of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (4th award), Air Medal-Strike/Flight (9th award), and the Navy and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (4th award).

- Lance Cpl. Joseph Conrad, 24, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was a CH-53 helicopter crew chief who joined the Marine Corps in May 2016.

"The hardest part of being a Marine is the tragic loss of life of a fellow brother-in-arms," said Col. Craig Leflore, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16. "My deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of Capt. Samuel Shultz, 1st Lt. Samuel Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Derik Holley, and Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad. These "Warhorse" Marines brought joy and laughter to so many around them. They each served honorably, wore the uniform proudly and were a perfect example of what makes our Marine Corps great - its people. They will forever be in our hearts and minds."

The aircraft departed the Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, to conduct squadron training.

The crash happened about 15 miles west of El Centro.

The cause remains under investigation.
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