Four days after an amphibious assault vehicle sunk off the coast of California during a training exercise, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S Navy confirmed the bodies of those missing have been found.

A press release from Camp Pendleton states, Officials with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) positively identified on Aug. 3 the location of the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) that sunk off the coast of San Clemente Island on July 30.

The U.S. Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command confirmed that human remains have also been identified using their underwater remotely-operated video systems from the merchant vessel HOS Dominator, a ship specializing in undersea search and rescue.

The Navy has expedited the movement of assets to recover the remains of the Marines and Sailor, as well as raise the AAV. The equipment to properly and safely perform the recovery from the sea floor will be in place at the end of this week, and a dignified transfer of our Marines and Sailor will occur as soon as possible after the conclusion of recovery operations.

The AAV was returning to the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset after conducting a training raid at San Clemente Island, California. It began taking on water about 1,500 meters off the coast of the island and rapidly sank with 15 Marines and one sailor aboard.

All personnel were wearing combat gear including body armor. Personnel in two other AAVs nearby were able to assist in rescuing survivors and marking the location of the sunk vehicle.

Eight troops were rescued at the surface, three of whom were rushed to a nearby hospital. One of the three, a Marine, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard then began search operations involving U.S. warships USS John Finn, USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS San Diego, in addition to 11 U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters, and helicopters and vessels from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

After combing a 1,000 square nautical mile radius area for the next 40 hours, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger announced the end of SAR (Search and Rescue) operations on Sunday. “This difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted.”

The first reported casualty was identified as Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas who died at the scene. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, 15th MEU.

The eight remaining servicemen who perished in the AAV included:

• Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
• Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, and all water training exercises in AAVs have been suspended.

The AAV was found approximately 385 feet deep. The remains of the soldiers were identified by the U.S. Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command using underwater remotely-operated video systems on the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the merchant vessel HOS Dominator. The ship specializes in undersea search and rescue and was chartered by Military Sealift Command.

17 Responses

  1. Andre's Garcia

    Fair winds and following seas Warriors. May you all rest in peace and may God bless your families and friends with comfort and peace.

    Reply
    • Darnell

      Rest in ☮️ my brothers. From Marine Corps Veteran 8 years. With Honor and respect.

      Reply
  2. Kristin

    Our prayers go out to those recovering from this incident and the families of the men who lost their lives. May You feel Gods presence during this difficult time and always! Thank you for your service gentlemen!

    Reply
  3. Joan

    My Lord and Savior, I pray for these service men and I pray for all their families. May God Bless the All.

    Reply
  4. Pamela

    God Bless these heros, Dear Lord please place your loving arms around their family and friends to bring them peace.

    Reply
  5. Larry H.

    God bless these fine young men! So sorry for their families’ loss. Our sincerest condolences. Thank you for your service!

    Reply
  6. Dave

    Praying for all our men and women lost providing the ultimate sacrifice! We are thankful for all. America please remember what we have because of them. God bless our Men and Women of America!

    Reply
  7. Jenn

    God Bless the families of these service men and the sacrifices they made. May you Rest In Peace. Thank you for your service.

    Reply
  8. Russell

    God Bless every family of these lost soldiers. So many have forgotten the ultimate sacrifice so many brave young men and women have gave for our freedom. Prayers…

    Reply
  9. Rena

    My heart goes out to all of the families of these young men/soldiers May they rest easy. Thank you for serving our country.

    Reply
  10. Daryl Cole

    Thank you for not stopping until you found this sailor and these Marines. May they Rest in Peace. Their families and loved ones are in our prayers.

    Reply
  11. Melissa Hogan

    Grateful their families can have their bodies recovered! Small solitude for their loved ones! These men paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country!- USAF VETERAN

    Reply
  12. Frances

    My heart goes out to the families of these precious men that lost their lives. My prayers are with you. Stay strong we will see them again. God has gaven them a new life till we go to home our self. I lost two sons at once. It been nearly 36 years. I tell them as much as I can I love them and will see them when my time comes. God bless you all. Amen.

    Reply
  13. paula

    I wish the families of those tragic men prayers and condolences from my heart to all!

    Reply
  14. Rob Yuknavage

    My heart goes out to the loss of great soldiers. Prayers to the families of the young men that lost their lives doing what they love for their country.

    Reply

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