Officials with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group positively identified on Aug. 3 the location of the amphibious assault vehicle 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 sunk to a depth of approximately 385 feet after taking on water during a shore-to-ship maneuver approximately 1,500 meters off the coast of San Clemente Island. One Marine was pronounced dead at the scene, and seven missing Marines and one Sailor were subsequently presumed dead August 2 as search and rescue efforts ceased.
A previous press release had estimated the depth as 600 feet.
The cause of the July 30 incident is under investigation.
The Department of the Navy identified the Marines and sailors involved.
Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Marine expeditionary unit said. Perez was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team.
The eight that are missing, presumed dead, were identified as: Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, Calif.; Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, Calif.; Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisc.; U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, Calif.; Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore.; Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas; Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Ore.; and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, Calif.
A Marine rifleman and a Marine assault amphibious vehicle crew member were also injured, but were not identified. In total, 16 personnel were aboard the vehicle around 5:45 p.m. when they reported taking on water while conducting shore-to-shore waterborne operations training near San Clemente Island.
“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines’ and Sailor’s families during this difficult time,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU commanding officer.
Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper issued a statement Aug. 3.
“A grateful nation and the Department of Defense grieves the tragic loss of the Marines and Sailor lost in the amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of San Clemente Island,” Esper said. “Our prayers and condolences are with the family and friends of these brave young men.
“Their service, commitment and courage will always be remembered by the nation they served. While the incident remains under investigation, I want to assure our service members and their families that we are committed to gathering all the facts, understanding exactly how this incident occurred, and preventing similar tragedies in the future.”