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Searchers find sunken amphibious assault vehicle after accident that killed 9 in U.S. military

The nine service members had either been confirmed or presumed dead after the training accident off Southern California last week.

Searchers have located a sunken amphibious assault vehicle and identified human remains following a training accident that killed eight Marines and a sailor last week, the military said Tuesday.

A Marine was pronounced dead at the scene and the seven other Marines and the sailor are presumed dead after the training accident Thursday off San Clemente Island, California.

The amphibious assault vehicle was found in about 385 feet of water, the military said in a statement. It took on water during a "shore-to-ship maneuver" around 4,900 feet off the coast of the island.

"Undersea Rescue Command is humbled to have worked alongside fellow Navy commands, as well as the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, to locate our Marine Corps and Navy brethren," Cmdr. Josh Powers, commanding officer of the Navy's Undersea Rescue Command, said in a statement.

"Our sincerest thoughts, prayers and sympathies remain with their families, friends and fellow Marines and Sailors," Powers said.

The cause of the accident is under investigation, the military said. The Navy will work to recover the remains and raise the vehicle, the military said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed his condolences to the families and friends of all nine service members.

"I want to assure our service members and their families that we are committed to gathering all the facts, understanding exactly how this incident occurred and preventing similar tragedies in the future," Esper said in a statement Monday.

Marine and Navy searchers confirmed the location of the sunken assault vehicle Monday, and Undersea Rescue Command used "underwater remotely-operated video systems" from a merchant ship that specializes in underwater rescues to find human remains, the statement said.

A search was launched for survivors after the accident, but the seven missing Marines and the sailor were presumed dead Sunday.

Fifteen Marines and a sailor were inside an amphibious assault vehicle when they reported taking on water at about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, officials have said.

Some of those rescued were found in the water after deploying flotation devices, which everyone on board had been equipped with, Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman has said.

The Marine who was recovered after the incident and then pronounced dead has been identified as Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas.

The seven Marines who are presumed dead have been identified as:

  • Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California
  • Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California
  • Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin
  • Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon
  • Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas
  • Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon
  • Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California

The sailor was identified as Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California.