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Remains of Marines, sailor recovered from amphibious vehicle sunk off California coast

CNN logo CNN 8/8/2020 By Topher Gauk-Roger and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
a man driving a boat in the water: PACIFIC OCEAN (July 31, 2020) A U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk pilot returns to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) during ongoing search and rescue operations following an AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle mishap off the coast of Southern California, July 30, 2020. Assisting in the search and rescue operations are the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113), multiple U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopters and small boats from USS Makin Island, the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22), as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego. © Cpl. Patrick Crosley/Digital/Marine Corps PACIFIC OCEAN (July 31, 2020) A U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk pilot returns to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) during ongoing search and rescue operations following an AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle mishap off the coast of Southern California, July 30, 2020. Assisting in the search and rescue operations are the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113), multiple U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopters and small boats from USS Makin Island, the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22), as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego.

The remains of seven Marines and a sailor were recovered Friday from an amphibious assault vehicle that had sunk on July 30 off the coast of California's San Clemente Island.

Their remains will soon be transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be prepared for burial, according to the US Marine Corps.

They will then be released to their families in accordance with their wishes.

"Our hearts and thoughts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are with the families of our recovered Marines and Sailor," Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement. "We hope the successful recovery of our fallen warriors brings some measure of comfort."

As previously reported by CNN, the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) suffered a mishap off San Clemente Island during a routine training exercise.

Sixteen personnel were on board the AAV when the crew reported taking on water during a shore-to-ship waterborne operations training. Five crew members were rescued from the sinking AAV and returned to their ship, the USS Somerset. Two Marines were hospitalized.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 19, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene. His remains were transferred on Wednesday to Dover Air Force Base.

After an extensive two-day search, the 15th MEU concluded its search and rescue effort for the eight missing service members. The sunken AAV was located Monday.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation and similar training has been suspended while officials learn more about the incident.

The eight other deceased service members were identified on Monday as:

• Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, a rifleman

• Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman

• Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman

• US Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California

• Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 20, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman

• Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 22, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman

• Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman

• Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to update the ages of the deceased service members.

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