A search for eight Camp Pendleton Marines was under way Friday following a "training mishap" with an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) off the coast of Southern California, according to the United States Marine Corps. One Marine died following the training incident, and two others were severely injured.
Fifteen Marines and one sailor were inside the AAV when they reported taking on water at approximately 5:45 p.m Thursday. The group was traveling from the shores of San Clemente Island, approximately 78 miles off the coast of San Diego, to a Navy ship when the AVV started sinking about halfway through their training routine, according to Lt. Cameron H. Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesman for Camp Pendleton.
One Marine assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla where he was pronounced dead. Two injured Marines who were rescued were also taken to Scripps La Jolla, with one in critical condition
The USS John Finn, three U.S. Navy helicopters, and several small boats were being aided by a U.S. Coast Guard ship and a helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego in the search for the eight missing service members.
“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 unit's commanding officer, said in a statement from the Marine Corps. Twitter account.
Thursday's accident marks the third time in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.
In 2011, a Marine was killed when an AAV sank during a training exercise in Oceanside Harbor. Six Marines were inside that AAV.
And in 2017, 14 Marines and one sailor were hospitalized after their AVV hit a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling coastal Marine Corps base north of San Diego. One of the Marines was critically injured.
The Marines use the amphibious assault vehicles to transport troops and equipment from Navy ships to land. They are nicknamed “amtracs” because the original name for the vehicle was “amphibious tractor.”
The armored vehicles can weigh as much as 30 tons and are outfitted with machine guns and grenade launchers look a little like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.
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The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main warfighting organization. There are three such groups, each of which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces.
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