On Thursday, while training, one Marine died and two other members were severely wounded, in addition to seven more Marines and a sailor who were reported missing off the California coastline as their vehicle sank during the exercise.
As a result, the top general of the Marines has issued an order to suspend the use of AAVs until the reasons for the sinking are determined. The accident happened around 5:45 p.m. near the northwest part of San Clemente Island.
Lt. General Joseph Osterman, commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, said at a press conference Friday tat the AAV was one of the other 13 AAVs returning to the ship, situated one mile from shore.
According to Osterman, the personnel aboard the AAV signaled to other AAVs that their vehicle was sinking. Personnel from two other AAVs tried to help instantly and some members on a safety boat rescued eight of the Marines.
"It sank completely," said Osterman, adding that "the assumption is it went all the way to the bottom," several hundred feet below the surface, too deep for divers. AAV training on land would continue although operations on the water were being suspended "out of an abundance of caution," he added.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. I ask that you keep our Marines, sailors and their families in your prayers as we continue our search,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, commander of the 15th MEU.
"San Clemente is a very challenging amphibious training ground," said Eric Oehlerich, a former Navy SEAL who's conducted training there. "Night amphibious training is some of the most complex and high-risk training you can do as an amphibious soldier."