SAN DIEGO – A search continues for seven missing Marines and one sailor after an amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of southern California on Thursday evening, killing one and injuring two others.
In total, the boat carried 16 members of the military; five of whom have returned to their assigned ship, Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger said at a Friday press conference.
Berger said he has directed the suspension of water operations for amphibious assault vehicles until the cause of the incident has been determined. He said the entire fleet of vehicles would be inspected.
All of the Marines on the 26-ton vehicle, which resembles a seafaring tank, were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Marine Corps said.
The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main warfighting organization. There are three such groups which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. I ask that you keep our Marines, Sailors, and their families in your prayers as we continue our search,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, the unit’s commanding officer, said in a statement from the Marine Corps.
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The incident occurred during a training exercise near San Clemente Island, located about 60 miles off the coast of Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, said.
“When the AAV began to take on water, they signaled to the rest of the unit,” Osterman said. Eight Marines were able to be recovered at that time.
The vehicle sunk and now sits several hundred feet below water, too deep for a diver to reach, Osterman.
Thursday’s accident marks the third time in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.
Contributing: The Associated Press