Marines training accident in California: 8 service members missing

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Marines training accident in California: 8 service members missing.

An amphibious assault vehicle carrying 15 Marines and a Navy sailor sank near a military-owned island off the coast of Southern California, leaving one of the Marines dead and eight service members missing, authorities said Friday. The Marines were traveling in the vehicle, which resembles a seafaring tank, from the shores of San Clemente Island to a Navy ship Thursday evening when they reported the vehicle was taking on water, said Lt. Cameron H. Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesman for Camp Pendleton.

Two Marines who were rescued were injured, with one hospitalized in critical condition and the other in stable condition, a Marine Corps statement said. No names of the dead or injured Marines were released.

Military ships, small boats and helicopters on Friday were searching choppy seas for the missing amid moderate to strong winds. The Navy-owned island is about 78 miles offshore from San Diego.

Marine Corps Commandant David Berger tweeted Friday night that the Marines will suspend amphibious assault vehicle water operations “until causal factors of the mishap are better understood.”

All of the Marines on the vehicle were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and were involved in a routine military exercise when the vehicle started taking on water, the Marine Corps said.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, the commanding officer of the 15th MEU. “I ask that you keep our Marines, Sailors, and their families in your prayers as we continue our search.”

Thursday’s accident marks the third time in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.

In 2017, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their amphibious assault vehicle hit a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling coastal Marine Corps base north of San Diego.

In 2011, a Marine died when an amphibious assault vehicle in a training exercise sank off the shores of Camp Pendleton.

The Marines use the amphibious assault vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. They are nicknamed “amtracs” because the original name for the vehicle was “amphibious tractor.”

The armored vehicles, outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers, look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main warfighting organization. There are three such groups which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces.

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