- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2020

Seven U.S. Marines and one Navy sailor missing since their amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of San Diego on Thursday are believed to be dead, officials from the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton said.

Rescue crews from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard searched more than 1,000 nautical square miles over the last 40 hours for any sign of the missing service members before officials suspended the effort.

“It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, sailors and coast guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

Officials are now focusing on recovering the missing crew members. The HOS Dominator, a submarine support ship, and the Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command will be involved in the effort, including surveying the sea floor.

On Thursday, 15 Marines and one sailor were wrapping up training exercises off the coast of San Clemente Island in southern California when their amphibious assault vehicle began to take on water. Marine Corps officials said eight Marines were rescued but one of them later died at the hospital. Two others remain hospitalized in critical condition.

The USS John Finn, the USS Makin Island, the USS Somerset and the USS San Diego took part in the search effort, along with 11 US Navy SH-60 helicopters and multiple small boats. The US Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter also took part, officials said.

“Our thoughts and prayers have been and will continue to be with our Marines’ and sailors’ families during this difficult time,” said Col. Bronzi. “As we turn to recovery operations, we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and sailor.”

Marine Corps officials have temporarily suspended waterborne training using the amphibious assault vehicles pending the outcome of the investigation into what happened.

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