Marines have identified the 8 Marines and 1 sailor who died following the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle off the coast of California.
The service members were assigned to Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and were training off San Clemente Island when their AAV began taking on water. In total, sixteen were aboard the AAV returning to amphibious warship USS Somerset (LPD-25) after operating on the island the day before.
Eight Marines were rescued from the sinking AAV. Marine Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene and was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. via helicopter. Two other Marines were injured and taken to Scripps. A rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU remains in critical condition while an AAV crew member with Mechanized Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU has been upgraded to stable condition. The five remaining Marines returned to Somerset.
The Marines declared the eight missing presumed dead on Sunday:
- Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, Calif., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
- Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, Calif., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
- Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisc., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
- U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, Calif., a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
- Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore., 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, Ore., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
- Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, Calif., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU
The 15 MEU was training with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group ahead of an anticipated deployment later this year. The ARG includes USS Makin Island (LHD-8), Somerset and USS San Diego (LPD-22).
The Navy and Marines are now working to recover the missing AAV and remains that are presumed to be in about 600 feet of water off the island.
The Navy dispatched submarine search and rescue ship HOS Dominator to assist in the recovery on Friday. The ship, assigned to Undersea Rescue Command, is equipped with remotely operated underwater vehicles and other specialized undersea equipment.
As of Monday, Dominator was operating off the West coast of San Clemente Island.
In response to the sinking, the Marines have suspended all water operations of its fleet of AAVs until the cause of the sinking is better understood.