On 2 August, the US Marine Corps’ 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit released the names, following the notification of next of kin, of a Marine killed as well as seven Marines and one sailor missing and presumed dead in an Assault Amphibious Vehicle accident on 30 July.
Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene before being transported by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4.
The missing and presumed dead are:
- Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4
- Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
- Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.
Injured in the accident was a Marine rifleman with Bravo Company, who was airlifted from the scene by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital and was in critical condition. A crew member of the AAV with Mechanized Company, BLT ¼, was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital as well. He was in critical condition, but has since been upgraded to stable condition.
16 personnel were onboard the AAV on the day of the incident, when the crew reported that they were taking on water at 5:45 PM local time. The AAV was conducting shore-to-ship waterborne operations training in the vicinity of San Clemente Island off the coast of Southern California when the mishap occurred. 5 Marines were brought aboard USS Somerset after being rescued.
The missing personnel were presumed deceased on 1 August, following a 40 hour search that covered over 1,000 square nautical miles. US Navy ships that participated in the search were the USS John Finn, USS Makin Island, USS Somerset and USS San Diego, alongside small boats of the Navy and Marine Corps. Eleven Navy SH-60 helicopters were involved, as well as the US Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego.
Colonel Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th MEU, stated that the decision to conclude the search and rescue operation was done with a “heavy heart”, saying “the steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous”.
Lieutenant General Karsten Heckl, Commanding General of I MEF, expressed his condolences to the friends and families affected by the AAV mishap in a statement, saying:
“The I MEF family mourns the loss of the 7 Marines and a Sailor of the 15th MEU. To not have all of the answers right now is heartbreaking.
Our hearts break for their friends and families. We pray they find comfort during this difficult time.”
Following the conclusion of search and rescue operations, efforts are now focused on finding and recovering the missing personnel. The offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator has joined the recovery efforts, and Undersea Rescue Command is now using its remotely operated vehicles to survey the sea floor around the mishap area. The incident is now under investigation.