Seven missing U.S. Marines and US Navy Corpsman are now presumed dead and a 40-hour search operation has been suspended following a training accident off the coast of California on Thursday.
“All eight service members are presumed deceased. The 15th MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit] and the ARG [Amphibious Ready Group] leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident,” I Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement early Sunday.
Sometimes it’s a news article, and sometimes it’s personal. In this case, I know one of the dead Marines and am very close friends with his grandparents. They are a military family His grandfather earned a distinguished flying cross in Vietnam, and was shot down twice, surviving the war and retiring a colonel. His grandmother raised five children in a military family setting. Both grandparents are tough as nails…But that doesn’t make it the death of their young Marine grandson any easier to deal with. So by reporting this incident in this way, maybe I can express myself and deal with his death in my own way – a little bit. Names have not been released yet as far as I know and I won’t release his name here.
I have lost two men from two commands in training situations. Not just like this, of course, but it’s hard to take. However, it happens. The US Military trains hard and that means that people will be injured and people will die without a shot being fired in anger against them.
The AAV had begun taking on water around 5:45 p.m. Thursday night and quickly sank. Two other AAVs were nearby and able to assist in rescuing the survivors and marking the location of the sunk vehicle. Eventually, the AAV will be recovered and the cause of the failure that led to the vehicle sinking in deep water will be determined.
The AAV’s deployed from the USS Somerset (LPD-25) and were on their way back to the ship when the accident occurred.
If the 20 ton AAV takes on water, and sinks, there’s no way to get everyone out of it in time. It’s made of steel, and the hatches are not designed for quick egress in the water. And the people inside what becomes an iron coffin don’t have breathing apparatus. In this case, it sank in water hundreds of feet deep off San Clemente Island, California.
During the 40-hour search operation, personnel from the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard searched a 1,000 square nautical mile radius. Search efforts involved U.S. warships USS John Finn, USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS San Diego, in addition to 11 U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters, and helicopters and vessels from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
Nine service members (8 Marines and one Navy Corpsman) lost their lives in the incident, as the presumed dead eight service members join one service member who was reported dead in the first reports of the incident.
The Navy will deploy offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator, as well as the Undersea Rescue Command and its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to survey the crash site and conduct recovery efforts.