The military has called off the search for the seven Marines and one sailor who went missing after a deadly accident off the coast of San Diego on Thursday. The eight troops are now presumed dead after an exhaustive 40-hour search yielded no results. 

Fifteen Marines and one sailor were onboard an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) off of San Clemente Island during routine training on Thursday when the AAV began taking on water around 5:45 p.m. The AAV was en route to a Navy ship. 

Eight of the 16 troops escaped the sinking vehicle. Of them, one Marine later died and two others are in critical condition in a nearby hospital. The remainder of the survivors are all fine and have been returned to the unit. 

Spokesmen for the 15th Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit (MEU) announced earlier on Sunday that the command determined that there was little likelihood that the missing service members have survived the accident. Next of kin have been notified. The Pentagon will probably release the names of the now-presumed dead servicemembers tomorrow. 

In a released statement, Marine Colonel Christopher Bronzi, the Commander of the 15th MEU said, “It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort.” 

“The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle sinks, multiple casualties

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According to a statement released by the I Marine Expeditionary Force, over the course of the at-sea search, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard helicopter, ships and watercraft searched more than 1,000 square nautical miles. 

Assisting in the search efforts were the navy ships USS John Finn. the USS Makin Island, the USS Somerset, and the USS San Diego. Eleven U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters and multiple Navy and Manne Corps small boats were also involved. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego assisted as well.

LTG Karsten Heckl, Commanding General, I MEF, expressed his condolences to the friends and families of the servicemembers affected by the AAV accident in a released statement. 

“The I MEF Family mourns the loss of the 7 Marines and a sailor of the 15th MEU. To not have all the answers right now is heartbreaking,” he wrote. 

“Our hearts break for their friends and families. We pray they find comfort during this most difficult time.” 

This latest accident marks the third time in less than 10 years that Marines from Camp Pendelton have been injured or died while using AAVs during training exercises.

Back in 2011, one Marine died when an AAV sank during a training exercise off the coast of San Diego.

Just three years ago in 2017, during another training exercise, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their AAV struck a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed their landing craft. The incident took place off of Camp Pendleton, the West Coast Marine Corps base just outside of San Diego.