Bodies of 8 U.S. Service Members Recovered Following Training Accident Off Calif. Coast
Nine servicemen died in the July 30 training accident
The victims, identified earlier this week, included 18-year-old Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra of Corona, California; 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco of Montebello, California; 19-year-old Pfc. Evan A. Bath of Oak Creek, Wisconsin; 22-year-old US Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem of Stockton, California; 21-year-old Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky of Bend, Oregon; 23-year-old Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd of Harris, Texas; 19-year-old rifleman Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood of Portland, Oregon; and 21-year-old Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva of Riverside, California.
Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was also pronounced dead at the scene last Thursday, the military said in an earlier press release. Perez was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, officials said.
Their remains will be transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be prepared for burial and they will then be released to their families, according to a Friday press release.
“Our hearts and thoughts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are with the families of our recovered Marines and Sailor,” Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said. “We hope the successful recovery of our fallen warriors brings some measure of comfort.”
Two other Marines who were injured in the accident were airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital following the incident. Both were initially in critical condition, but officials revealed one of them, a Marine AAV crew member with Mechanized Co., BLT 1/4, had since been upgraded to stable condition, according to the Aug. 3 release.
A total of 15 Marines and one sailor were involved in the accident, which occurred inside an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) during a 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group routine training exercise near California's San Clemente Island.
According to the United States Naval Institution, the AAV has been the "primary infantry sea-to-land transport vehicle since the 1970s," and the Marines are currently testing its replacement.
Five Marines were rescued and brought aboard USS Somerset, while search and rescue efforts were launched with help from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard to search for the eight missing service members.
On Aug. 2, the military announced all eight were presumed dead.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Bronzi said in a statement at the time. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”