Eight Marines and one sailor ‘dead’ and two ‘critical’ after sea tank SANK several hundred feet during training

EIGHT Marines and a sailor are believed to be dead after an amphibious assault vehicle sank several hundred feet during a routine training session.

A search and rescue operation for the missing marines has come to an end nearly two days after The Marine Expeditionary Force announced that the Navy and Coast Guard were searching for sailors.

The MEF revealed early Sunday that the "15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)" concluded their extensive 40-hour search for seven missing marines and one sailor.

Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer, said in a Sunday press release: "It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort.

“The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

Searching was ceased as both the MEU and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) determined there was "little probability of a successful rescue."

The fatal accident occurred during a training exercise at 5.45pm on Thursday near San Clemente Island, and involved members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 15th MEU is based at the Marine Corps Camp Pendleton training centre on the West Coast.

During routine training on July 30 near the island, the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) began taking on water – with 15 marines and one sailor on board.

"Of the 16 services members, eight members were rescued,one died, and two others are in critical condition at a local hospital," the MEF revealed Sunday.

One Marine was pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, California.

All but one of the 15 service members training in the amphibious vehicle were Marines, while the other was a sailor.

The 30-ton tracked AAVs are armored personnel carriers used to get Marines from ship to shore.

More than 1,000 square nautical miles were searched by the Marine Corps, Navy, and and Coast Guard.

"Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines' and Sailor's families during this difficult time," Bronzi said.

"As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and Sailor." 

An investigation underway to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"The names of the Marines and Sailor will be released 24-hours after next of kin notification," the MEF stated.

Thursday's fatality comes one year after a Marine was killed and six others were injured when their light-armored vehicle rolled at Camp Pendleton during a training drill.

The Marines were with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, when the death happened in May 2019.

And in September 2011, two Marines aboard a helicopter were killed when the aircraft crashed during a training mission at a Southern California military base.

The two-person AH-1W “Cobra” helicopter went down in the southeast corner of Camp Pendleton, which is 40 miles north of San Diego.

The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main warfighting organization.

There are three such groups which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides a "forward deployed, flexible sea-based Marine air-ground task force," according to its website.

The unit is skilled in conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and contingency operations.

This includes "enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations to support the theater requirements of combatant commanders."

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