Search Concluded: 7 Marines, 1 Sailor Presumed Dead
After 40 hours of SAR operations, the search has been concluded for 7 missing Marines and 1 Sailor involved in the AAV accident from Thursday. Marine command determined that there was little chance of a successful rescue at this time. (Marine Corps Times)
The Marine Corps released the names of those who died in the AAV accident off the coast of California: The Marine who died at the scene was Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels Texas. The others who are missing and presumed dead are:: 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; and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California. Military.com
The AAV sank after taking on water during a training exercise near San Clemente Island. There were 13 other AAVs in the water at the time of the accident. Authoritie believe it sank in about 600 feet of water, too deep for a regular dive. They used an ROV from the submarine support ship Dominator on Friday in an attempt to find the missing vehicle.
USNI reported information from Lt. Gen. Joseph D. Osterman, the I Marine Expeditionary Force commander:
The Marines were in their normal combat gear that includes body armor they’d use through the previous day’s training ashore, Osterman said. “They all had flotation, as well. That’s part of our equipment loadout,” he said, referring to inflatable vests they’d wear for waterborne missions. Those vests helped in rescuing some of the Marines, he added.
Each AAV holds up to 21 passengers, each with up to 285 pounds of gear, along with an operating crew of three. Getting out of a [AAV] has “an awful lot of dynamics involved in that,” he said.
Each 26-ton AAV has three water-tight hatches, Osterman said, and two large troop hatches in the rear. “It has a natural buoyancy to it, obviously, to be able to conduct amphibious operations,” he said.
Of the first 8 who were able to get out, one died, 2 were seriously injured, and the other 5 were able to return to their unit. Marine Corps command has ordered all AAVs to be inspected until the cause of this incident is found.
“I know all of us in the USMC family are extremely saddened following the announcement of the end of SAR operations. This difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted. Our prayers continue to be with the family and friends of the 8 Marines and one Sailor we lost.” Gen David Berger CMC
“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.” Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer
After an extensive 40-hour search, the 15th
Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the Makin Island
Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) concluded their search and rescue operation for seven missing Marines
and one Sailor, today.
— I MEF (@1stMEF) August 2, 2020
Rest in peace, gentlemen.
Featured photo: a helicopter involved in the search for the AAV, 1st MEF, US Marine Corps