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Marine Corps Finds Sunken AAV, Remains of Troops Killed in Southern California ‘Training Mishap'

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 8/4/2020 Monica Garske, NBC 7 Staff and The Associated Press
a boat on a body of water: Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator. Undersea Rescue Command is aiding in recovery of the missing seven Marines and one Sailor from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by LT Curtis Khol/Released) © Commander, Submarine Squadron 11

Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator. Undersea Rescue Command is aiding in recovery of the missing seven Marines and one Sailor from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by LT Curtis Khol/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps officials have found the sunken amphibious assault vehicle involved in the deadly “training mishap” off the coast of Southern California last week – and the remains of eight service members killed in the accident.

USMC officials at Camp Pendleton said Tuesday that crews with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) had been able to positively identify the location of the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) on Monday.

The AAV sunk off the coast of San Clemente Island – about 78 miles away from San Diego – on July 30. Nine service members were killed in what USMC officials called a “training mishap” as the AAV took on water during an evening “shore-to-ship” training maneuver.

On Tuesday, the 15th MEU confirmed the U.S. Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command had detected human remains near the sunken AAV.

The Navy is helping to recover the remains of the seven U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor killed in the incident.

The USMC said the “equipment to properly and safely perform the recovery from the sea floor will be in place at the end of this week.” Following the recovery of the bodies, the USMC will conduct a “dignified transfer” of its Marines and sailor.

The USMC said the AAV sunk to a depth of approximately 385 feet, less than the 600 feet previously estimated by military officials.

In addition to the eight service members that will be recovered from the sea, one Marine was pronounced dead at the scene of the July 30 incident. Search and rescue efforts for the remaining eight service members ceased on Aug. 2, with all presumed dead.

The training mishap is under investigation.

The identities of service members killed in the training mishap were released on Aug. 2. They were:

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.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene before being transported by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, 15th MEU.

NBC 7 spoke with the family of Cesar Villanueva. His mom remembers him as a kind, respectable person who was very outgoing.

"He was calm and outgoing. He wanted to enter the Marines because he wanted to serve his country," Maria Villanueva said.

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