Seven U.S. Marines and one sailor were presumed deceased after they went missing during a training “mishap” off California’s southern coast Thursday, NBC News reported.
“The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group concluded their search and rescue operation after an extensive 40-hour search for the service members,” officials said in a press release on Saturday, according to the outlet.
The release stated:
The 15th MEU and the ARG leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident.
On July 30, 15 Marines and one Sailor were participating in a routine training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island, California, when the amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, began to take on water and sank. Of the 16 service members, eight Marines were rescued, one died and two others are in critical condition at a local hospital.
“Two amphibious assault vehicles and a safety boat were nearby. Some of the rescued Marines were found bobbing in the water after successfully deploying floatation devices, which all on board had been equipped with,” Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman noted.
In a tweet Sunday, 38th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps David H. Berger expressed his sadness regarding the news.
“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,” he wrote:
I want to express my gratitude to our Navy and Coast Guard teammates for their efforts and support in the search and rescue of Marines, and the diligent efforts they made to recover our Marines and Sailor who remain missing.
— David H. Berger (@CMC_MarineCorps) August 2, 2020
“Over the course of the at-sea search, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard helicopter, ships and watercraft searched more than 1,000 square nautical miles,” the press release noted, adding that efforts would now turn to finding and recovering the missing service members.
A search and rescue swimmer assigned to the @usnavy's #USSMakinIsland looks out of an MH-60 Seahawk while conducting search and rescue relief operations, Friday, following an AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle mishap off the coast of Southern California, Thursday. pic.twitter.com/rB887tnNFH
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) August 1, 2020
As of Sunday, the incident was still under investigation and the names of the Marines and the Sailor would be released 24-hours after their families were notified, officials said.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer stated in the press release.
“The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors. and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous,” he concluded.