The Marine amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the coast of California last week has been located in 385 feet of water, along with the remains of at least some of the missing service members, officials announced Tuesday.
Marine Corps and Navy officials positively identified the location of the AAV on Monday, according to I Marine Expeditionary Force. The Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command used a remotely operated undersea search-and-rescue ship to confirm that remains of the missing are inside the 26-ton vehicle, which sank July 30.
“The Navy has expedited the movement of assets to recover the remains of the Marines and Sailor, as well as raise the AAV,” a Marine Corps statement said. “The equipment to properly and safely perform the recovery from the sea floor will be in place at the end of this week, and a dignified transfer of our Marines and Sailor will occur as soon as possible after the conclusion of recovery operations.”
Eight Marines and one sailor were killed in the accident off the coast of San Clemente Island. The sailor and seven of the Marines were not found after the mishap, leading to a massive search-and-rescue mission that was called off Sunday when officials declared the troops dead.
The victims were Pfcs. Bryan Baltierra, Evan Bath and Jack Ryan Ostrovsky; Lance Cpls. Marco Barranco, Guillermo Perez and Chase Sweetwood; Cpls. Wesley Rodd and Cesar Villanueva; and Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he was deeply saddened by the tragic loss.
“Our prayers are with their families,” the commander in chief tweeted. “I thank them for the brave service their loved ones gave to our Nation. #SemperFidelis”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, the service’s top general, on Monday said the AAV was on its way back to the amphibious transport dock ship Somerset when it hit rough waters. The vehicle began taking on more water than it could pump out, he said.
Eight Marines were able to escape from the AAV before it sank. Perez was one of the Marines pulled from the water, but he succumbed to wounds from a serious head injury, Berger said. Two other Marines remained hospitalized as of Monday.
All of the personnel are assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is training for an upcoming deployment.
Navy Cmdr. Josh Powers, commanding officer of Undersea Rescue Command, said it has been humbling to work alongside the Marine Corps and Coast Guard to find the eight missing service members.
“Our sincerest prayers and sympathies remain with their families, friends and fellow Marines and Sailors,” he said in a statement.
Berger has ordered all waterborne AAV operations to pause while the Marine Corps investigates what caused this one to sink. An investigation into the accident is underway.
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