Seven missing US Marines are presumed dead, the Marine Corps said Sunday calling off a search and rescue operation three days after an amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of southern California Thursday Last.
Nine soldiers, including the seven missing Marines, one missing sailor and one other Marine earlier rescued died after the assault amphibious vehicle sank during training more than a half-mile from San Clemente Island, the Marines said in a statement.
Over 40 hours of search, helicopters of the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, ships and boats combed more than a thousand nautical miles, according to a Marine statement.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit commander. The search and rescue operation will turn into a search for the bodies of the missing soldiers, he added.
All next-of-kin have been informed, the Marines said. The Defense Department has not yet named the Marines involved. The Marines said efforts still are under way to recover the bodies of the troops.
On board the amphibious vehicle were 16 personnel, eight of whom were rescued, but one died while two were in critical condition.
The amphibious vehicle weighs 26 tons and is designed to transport forces from a ship to shore and vice versa. When the accident occurred, she was heading to a ship from the island, which the army uses exclusively for his training. The vehicle sank in an area hundreds of meters deep, and the army said it was at a depth that divers could not reach.