The sunken amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), in which seven missing Marines and one sailor drowned in a tragic accident on July 30, was located. The vessel was found shortly after the search was called off and the Marine Corps and Navy had begun the process of notifying the families of the deceased. The accident had happened off the coast of San Diego.
The sunken AAV was sighted on Tuesday by the crew of the HOS Dominator, an offshore supply ship.
The eight servicemen drowned, when their AAV, which carried 16 men, took water on the northwest side of San Clemente Island. The Marines were from nearby Camp Pendleton with Battalion Landing Team 1-4. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The one sailor was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marine infantry unit. San Clemente is a government-owned island used for Marine and Navy training.
The eight men who drowned were: Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, CA; Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, CA; Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wis.; U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, CA; Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore.; Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas; Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18, of Portland, Ore. and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, CA.
A ninth Marine, Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Two other Marines who had been onboard the AAV are recovering in a local area hospital. Five other Marines were rescued unharmed and are back with their unit.
Officials did not release the exact location of the AAV but said that the vehicle was located at a depth of 395 feet and about 1,500 meters offshore. The HOS Dominator’s underwater remote-operated vehicle made the discovery. The Navy has sent more recovery ships with personnel and equipment to help raise the vehicle.
“Equipment to properly and safely perform the recovery from the seafloor 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,” Lieutenant Biran Tuthill of the Marine Expeditionary Force said.
By orders of the Commandant of the Marines, General David Berger, the Marine Corps has suspended all maritime training with AAVs until an investigation on how this accident occurred is complete.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper released a statement Monday that said, “A grateful nation and the Department of Defense grieve the tragic loss of the Marines and sailor lost in the amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of San Clemente Island. Our prayers and condolences are with the family and friends of these brave young men.”
AAVs are called “amtracs” by the Marines, which is a shortening of the vehicles’ original name “amphibious tractor.” The term dates to WWII when the vehicle was used in many amphibious landings in the Pacific.