The remains of seven Marines and one sailor killed in a training accident off the coast of Southern California late last month were recovered on Friday in a U.S. Navy underwater salvage operation, according to the authorities.
The servicemen’s remains will be sent to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware before being released to their families, the I Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement. The amphibious assault vehicle they were in was also recovered, and the accident remains under investigation.
Last week, after a 40-hour search, the eight missing servicemen were presumed dead, and the search-and-rescue effort became a recovery operation.
On Sunday, the seven Marines whose remains were found, all riflemen, were identified as Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18; Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21; Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19; Pfc. Jack-Ryan Ostrovsky, 20; Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 22; Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18; and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21.
The sailor whose remains were recovered was identified as Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22.
One Marine, Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 19, also a rifleman, was pronounced dead shortly after the accident, which left two other Marines injured.
All 16 service members aboard the amphibious assault vehicle were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton, in the San Diego area.
“Our hearts and thoughts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are with the families of our recovered Marines and sailor,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, the unit’s commanding officer, said in the statement. “We hope the successful recovery of our fallen warriors brings some measure of comfort.”
At the time of the accident, the vehicle was traveling from San Clemente Island back to a ship that was more than 1,000 meters off shore, Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said last week.
Around 5:45 p.m., the personnel onboard reported that the vehicle was taking on water. Two nearby amphibious assault vehicles witnessed it sink and were able to pinpoint its exact location, General Berger said.
Camp Pendleton is the largest Marine base on the West Coast, and Marines often practice beach assaults there using the amphibious troop transport vehicles.
Marines have used the vehicles to move troops from the sea and land since the 1970s. In 2017, 15 Marines were wounded when an amphibious vehicle they were training in caught fire at Camp Pendleton.
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