1 Marine killed, 8 missing after accident off coast of San Clemente Island, officials say

One Marine was killed and eight service members are missing following what officials described as a mishap with an Assault Amphibious Vehicle off the coast of San Clemente Island.

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Saturday, August 1, 2020
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The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. David H. Berger, spoke at a news conference after an amphibious vehicle accident left one Marine dead and eight other service members missing.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Eight Marines were missing and one dead after an amphibious assault vehicle sank during a training exercise near San Clemente Island, authorities said.

There were 15 Marines and a Navy sailor in the vehicle Thursday afternoon when it started taking on water as it traveled from the shores of San Clemente Island to a Navy ship, said Lt. Cameron H. Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesman for Camp Pendleton, said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

According to the Marines, the accident happened on at about 5:45 p.m. when Marines in the amphibious assault vehicle reported taking on water.

The incident occurred during a 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group routine training exercise near the island, which is owned by the Navy, officials said.

Fifteen Marines and one sailor were inside the AAV at the time. Eight Marines have been rescued.

Of the two Marines injured, one is listed in stable condition and the other is in critical condition.

"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, 15th MEU Commanding Officer. The Navy and Coast Guard are helping with search and rescue efforts.

The name of the Marine who died will be withheld for 24 hours when next of kin have been identified. The Marine was pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

Thursday's accident marks the third time in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.

In 2017, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their vehicle hit a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling coastal Marine Corps base north of San Diego.

And in 2011, a Marine died when an amphibious assault vehicle in a training exercise sank off the shores of Camp Pendleton.

The Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. They are nicknamed "amtracs" because the original name for the vehicle was "amphibious tractor."

The armored vehicles outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

The I Marine Expeditionary Force is a Marine Air Ground Task Force whose mission is "generating, deploying, and employing ready forces and formations for crisis response, forward presence, major combat operations, and campaigns."