Eight Missing U.S. Service Members in AAV Mishap Presumed Dead, Search and Rescue Op Concludes
The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy have concluded their search and rescue operation for seven missing Marines and one Sailor in Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) mishap, on August 2.
The operation was concluded following an extensive 40-hour search by the USMC 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and the Navy’s Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
A statement from I MEF said that all eight service members are presumed deceased.
“The 15th MEU and the ARG leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident”, said the statement.
On July 30, 15 Marines and one Sailor were participating in a routine training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island, California, when the amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, began to take on water and sank. Of the 16 service members, eight Marines were rescued, one died and two others are in critical condition at a local hospital.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors. and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”
Over the course of the at-sea search, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard helicopter, ships and watercraft searched more than I,000 square nautical miles.
Assisting in the search efforts were the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113), Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD‑8), and San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships, USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS San Diego (LPD-22).
Eleven U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters and multiple Navy and Marine Corps small boats were also involved. The U.S. Coast Guard Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Forest Rednour (WPC-1129) and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego assisted as well.
“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines’ and Sailor’s families during this difficult time,” said Bronzi. “As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and Sailor.”
Efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the Marines and Sailor still missing. Assisting in the recovery efforts is the offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator, as well as the Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command (URC), utilizing their Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to survey the sea floor.
The statement said that the circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated adding that the names of the Marines and Sailor “will be released 24-hours after next of kin notification”.