WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Eight marine forces were presumed dead after their boarded amphibious assault vehicle (amtrac) sank during a Camp Pendleton military exercises in a Navy-owned island near San Diego.
- Commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Col. Christopher Bronzi, whose jurisdiction includes the eight marines, said on Sunday that they will stop the search and rescue effort that started Thursday afternoon.
- Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger has suspended the movement of all amtracs across the division until authorities have determined the cause of the incident.
The Marine Corps announced on Sunday that eight of its troops are presumed dead after their craft sank during a military exercise.
The search started late on Thursday afternoon when an assault vehicle, weighing 26 tons and carrying 15 Marines and one Navy sailor, quickly sank in about a hundred feet below sea level ⏤ which is difficult for divers to reach, the Marines said.
Several helicopters and ships conducted a search-and-rescue operation for more than 1,000 square nautical miles (2,590 square kilometers) of the sea.
Eight of the marine passengers were rescued, one died later while two are in critical condition.
“It is with as (sic) heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said.
The craft was part of the 13 amphibious assault vehicles that had just finished an exercise. It was about to go back to its Navy ship base when it suddenly took on water about a half-mile from the Navy-owned island off San Diego.
Based at nearby Camp Pendleton, located north of San Diego, all of the Marines aboard were connected to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. According to the commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, the marines were aged 19 to early 30s. All of them wore combat gear which includes body armor and flotation vests.
During Friday’s news conference, Osterman said that other troops from two other crafts quickly responded but were not able to prevent the sinking.
According to officials, the priority now would be to find and recover the bodies and investigate the incident. The names of the deceased Marines will be announced within 24 hours after their families are informed.
The craft, which is named as “amtrac,” short for amphibious tractor, is used to transport troops and equipment from Navy ships to land. Being used since 1972 and continually being refurbished, it was designed to be buoyant that has three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches.
General David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, ordered the suspension of all of its more than 800 amphibious assault vehicles across the division until officials have fully known the cause of the incident. According to Berger, the move was out of “an abundance of caution.”
In recent years, it was the most fatal accident involving amtracs that occurred during Camp Pendleton exercises.