Hero Marine Saved the Life of a Fellow Marine in AAV Accident
On September 13, an AAV from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion caught fire, trapping 15 men inside during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton. Fourteen Marines and 1 sailor were severely injured in the AAV accident when it hit an exposed gas line. The investigation results were released on Monday. One Marine stood out as the hero who bravely ventured into the inferno to rescue a severely burned Marine.
The AAV ran over an exposed natural gas line and backfired, which ignited the blaze. It reportedly reached 20 feet high and burned for 6 hours.
The Marine Corps Times reported,
The Marines and sailor were from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. They suffered burns, and some required skin graft surgeries. One of the troops aboard the AAV received 30 percent burns to his hands and face.
The AAV had gotten stuck in a ditch while trying to maneuver around another amphibious vehicle that had thrown a track, the investigation found. In order to get the vehicle out the ditch, the driver revved the engine. What the driver did not know was the AAV had run over an exposed gas line.
The brave Marine, whose name was redacted from the investigation, was standing near the AAV when its engine backfired. He heard a loud pop or bang and saw a black plume of exhaust.
The Marine said the flames had a “rolling blowtorch effect.” And the fire was spreading, with 170 gallons of diesel fuel still aboard the burning AAV. One badly burned Marine needed help to get out.
“Immediately following the black plume was the explosion with a large fireball that covered the majority of the track. I saw the Marine from the T/C [troop commander] hatch and a pack catapult through the air from the AAV. Simultaneously, Marines inside the AAV started to pour over the sides of the vehicle…There was a lot of Marines screaming in pain and every Marine I saw had significant burns.
Once I got to the back hatch, I started to pull Marines out of the vehicle and handed them to someone behind me…When I grabbed the Marine, he immediately went limp. As I pulled him out of the hatch, his gear kept getting caught, which made it extremely difficult. With assistance from another Marine (not sure who), and with my foot on the back of the ramp/hatch to get more leverage, we were finally able to pull the Marine out.”
The man who rescued the badly burned Marine inside the AAV should be recommended for a Navy and Marine Corps medal, according to the investigation. At grave risk to himself, he stepped in to save lives. Three others were commended for starting immediate triage to the burn victims. The investigation found no fault with the driver of the AAV, and all 15 men survived, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Featured Photo of AAV training in North Carolina by Pfc. Taylor W. Cooper/Marine Corps via Marine Corps Times