The Corps has located an amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the California coast Thursday during a training accident, the Marine Corps confirmed to Marine Corps Times Tuesday.
Human remains were found on board the vehicle using a remotely-operated underwater video system from the Dominator, a merchant vessel specializing in underseas search and rescue, according to Tuesday Marine Corps press release.
The vehicle “rapidly” sank Thursday with 15 Marines and one sailor on board. Seven Marines and that one sailor have been missing since the incident and have been officially presumed dead since Sunday, when an “extensive 40-hour” search and rescue mission was shifted into a recovery mission.
“The Navy has expedited the movement of assets to recover the remains of the Marines and Sailor, as well as raise the AAV,” the press release said.
Eight Marines were able to escape the drowning vehicle, but one, Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead shortly after being returned to the amphibious transport dock Somerset.
The equipment necessary to conduct the recovery operation is expected to be in place by the end of the week and a “dignified transfer of our Marines and Sailor will occur as soon as possible after the conclusion of recovery operations,” the release added.
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The Marines and sailor that are still missing and presumed dead are:
―Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, a rifleman.
―Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman.
―Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman.
―U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, a hospital corpsman.
―Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman.
―Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman.
―Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman.
―Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman.
The vehicle was returning to the Somerset after conducting a training raid with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit on San Clemente Island when it reported taking on water.
The vehicle was found under 385 feet of water and approximately 1,500 meters off the island’s shores, according to Tuesday’s press release.
The cause of the accident is currently under investigation.
Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger has halted all waterborne AAV training in the Corps until the cause can be identified.