UPDATE: Bodies of 7 Marines, 1 Sailor Found

Rebekah Sager
August 04, 2020 - 3:49 pm

Officials announced that the bodies of seven Marines and one sailor have been found - they went missing last week off San Clemente Island.

According to the OC Register on Tuesday, "Marine Corps officials notified families on Monday, Aug. 3, when the amphibious assault vehicle was first sighted by the crew of the HOS Dominator, a Navy ship brought in that specializes in undersea search and rescue."

Eight troops had been presumed dead after a landing craft sank off the San Clemente Island during a training exercise, the Marine Corps announced Sunday.

The Marines said they had called off the search that started late Thursday afternoon when the amphibious assault vehicle sank with seven Marines and one sailor aboard. Eight other Marines were rescued, but one later died and two are in critical condition.

The eight missing troops, in addition to one Marine declared dead at the scene of the accident, were identified Monday morning:

- Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas (dead at the scene)
- 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
- U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
- 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 AAV had 16 onboard in total -- the other seven were rescued and two were hospitalized.

“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines’ and sailor’s families during this difficult time,” said Bronzi. “As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and sailor.” 

The 26-ton, tank-like craft took on water and quickly sank in hundreds of feet of water — too deep for divers — making it difficult to reach.

One Marine was killed, two were hurt, and the eight were missing after a tragic amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) accident took place off the coast of San Clemente Island Thursday, Marines say. 

The accident happened at about 5:45 p.m. California time. 

Five other service members in the AAVwere rescued.

Although the name of the service member who died is being withheld until the next of kin can be notified, they were with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), I Marine Expeditionary Force and was pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

One of the injured Marines was listed in critical condition and the other is in stable condition in San Diego area hospitals.

"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," Col. Christopher Bronzi, the commanding officer of the 15th MEU told CBS News. 

According to CBS News, the search and rescue operation was being conducted by the USS John Finn, three U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopters and multiple small boats from the USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS San Diego, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego.

The incident is under investigation.

Last year, a 28-foot wide American flag, comprised entirely of the dog tags of fallen service members traveled the country to "raise awareness of the sacrifice paid by our nation's heroes."

According to Veterans & Athletes United, the group behind the Fallen Heroes Memorial, it symbolizes the shape of the U.S. flag when draped over a fallen service member's casket.