Human Remains, Vehicle Found After Fatal Marine Accident on California Coast

PACIFIC OCEAN (August 3rd, 2020) Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator. Undersea Rescue Command is aiding in recovery of the missing seven Marines and one Sailor from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy …
U.S. Navy photo by LT Curtis Khol/Released

Human remains, as well as an amphibious assault vehicle, involved in a recent fatal training accident off the coast of Southern California were found Monday, according to the Marine Corps, in a statement on Tuesday.

A Marine Corps statement said:

Officials with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) positively identified on Aug. 3 the location of the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) that sunk off the coast of San Clemente Island on July 30.

The U.S. Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command confirmed that human remains have also been identified using their underwater remotely-operated video systems from the merchant vessel HOS Dominator, a ship specializing in undersea search and rescue.

The AAV had sunk to a depth of approximately 385 feet after taking on water during a shore-to-ship maneuver approximately 1,500 meters off the coast of San Clemente Island, the statement said.

One Marine was pronounced dead at the scene, and seven missing Marines and one Sailor were subsequently presumed dead on Monday after search and rescue efforts ceased, it said.

The deceased are:

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas

Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California

Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California

Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin

U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California

Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon

Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas

Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon

Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California

President Trump tweeted Tuesday: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of eight Marines and one Sailor during a training exercise off the coast of California. Our prayers are with their families. I thank them for the brave service their loved ones gave to our Nation. #SemperFidelis.”

The statement did not say whose remains have been identified, but it said that the Navy is expediting recovery efforts for the remains of “the Marines and Sailor,” and the vehicle.

“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,” the statement said.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.


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