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Bodies of 8 servicemen involved in Marines amphibious vehicle accident recovered

The remains of seven Marines and a Navy sailor involved in a training accident have been recovered. The servicemen were involved in a mishap when an amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of California on July 30.

Members of the Battalion Landing Team 1/4, based at Camp Pendleton, were training with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group. A 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle transporting 15 Marines and one Navy sailor started taking on water approximately a half-mile from San Clemente Island, about 80 miles west of San Diego. The AAV sank to the bottom of the seafloor.

Last Sunday, the search was halted after the service members were presumed dead. The HOS Dominator, a Navy ship specializing in underwear rescue, scanned the ocean floor and located the doomed vehicle on Tuesday. A commercial crane barge and special underwater equipment, including a drone, were used to raise the sunken vehicle that was sitting in 385 feet of water, according to The Orange County Register.

The amtrac was recovered as well as the eight servicemen. Altogether, nine service members died in the accident. Two were hospitalized, and one has since been released.

The identities of the casualties were released last week, and they 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.

The remains of the service members will be transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for burial preparation, “then be released to their families in accordance with their wishes,” according to a statement from the Marines.

“Our hearts and thoughts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are with the families of our recovered Marines and Sailor,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement. “We hope the successful recovery of our fallen warriors brings some measure of comfort.”

An investigation is ongoing to determine what caused the vessel to sink. Last week, the Marine Corps suspended all waterborne operations of the more than 800 AAVs as a precautionary measure.

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