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Marine Corps identifies 8 Marines, 1 Sailor killed in amphibious vehicle accident

U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard personnel search for survivors after an amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of California on July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
August 03, 2020

The identities of the seven presumed dead U.S. Marines and one Sailor were identified early Monday, along with an eighth U.S. Marine who died on the scene following an amphibious assault vehicle accident on Thursday.

The eight missing service members’ identities are as follows:

  • Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
  • Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.

The ninth service member — who died on the scene and was the first reported casualty — was identified as Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, 15th MEU.

Two of the rescued Marines were transported to the hospital in critical condition. One of them has improved to stable condition.

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The eight missing service members were announced as presumed dead on Sunday at the conclusion of a 40-hour search operation.

“All eight service members are presumed deceased. The 15th MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit] and the ARG [Amphibious Ready Group] leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident,” I Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement early Sunday.

During the 40-hour search operation, personnel from the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard searched a 1,000 square nautical mile radius. Search efforts involved U.S. warships USS John Finn, USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS San Diego, in addition to 11 U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters, and helicopters and vessels from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer, said “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.”

Nine service members lost their lives in the incident, as the presumed dead eight service members join one service member who was reported dead in the first reports of the incident.

16 service members were aboard the 20-ton Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) when it sank during a training exercise off the coast of California on Thursday. Seven Marines were rescued alive, and one died on scene.

“I know all of us in the USMC family are extremely saddened following the announcement of the end of SAR operations. This difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted. Our prayers continue to be with the family and friends of the 8 Marines and one Sailor we lost,” Marine Corps Commandant David Berger tweeted Sunday morning.

“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.”

The Marine Corps are deploying offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator, as well as the Undersea Rescue Command and its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to survey the crash site and conduct recovery efforts.

The AAV had begun taking on water around 5:45 p.m. Thursday night and quickly sank. Two other AAVs were nearby and able to assist in rescuing the survivors and marking the location of the sunk vehicle.