Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger announced that the Corps will suspend all amphibious assault vehicle waterborne training until the cause for Thursday’s fatal amphibious assault vehicle accident is discovered.
Around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, as Marines were returning to the amphibious transport dock Somerset after a training exercise, they reported that they were taking on water.
The AAV carrying 15 Marines and one sailor then “rapidly” sank between 1,000 meters and 2,000 meters from shore, Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force based in Camp Pendleton, California, said at a Friday evening press conference.
Eight of the crew were able to escape the vehicle and were brought to the Somerset. Three of the Marines were immediately flown to a nearby San Diego hospital.
One Marine was pronounced dead.
The two other Marines are in stable condition, Osterman said at the press conference.
Seven Marines and one sailor are still missing.
In the past 25 years only two AAVs have completely sunk, Osterman said at the press conference.
Berger, who also attended the press conference, announced that until the exact cause of the sinking is determined Marine AAV water training for AAVs has been suspended.
“Out of precaution, before we understand what caused this, we are pausing the waterborne operations for amtraks,” Berger said at the conference.
“This is to ensure out of an abundance of caution that we give the time to the recovery and find out what actually happened.”
Berger said that AAV units are authorized to continue on-shore training.
The AAV is presumed to be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean below “several hundred feet of water” where divers are unable to reach it, Osterman said.
The search and rescue operations are still underway, Osterman told reporters Friday evening.
“We are continuing search and rescue operations at this point, we have not moved into recovery operations,” Osterman said.
The name of the deceased and missing Marines are currently being withheld out of respect for the family.