Marine Corps ends search for, identifies 9 lost in AAV accident

Elizabeth Howe
August 03, 2020 - 8:40 am
Marines pack equipment in a combat rubber raiding craft in preparation for search and rescue operations

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The Marine Corps concluded its search for eight missing service members on Sunday, declaring them dead and releasing their identities. 

1 Marine dead, 2 injured, 8 missing after vehicle accident

The United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard spent 40 hours searching 1,000 square nautical miles for eight service members -- seven Marines and one sailor -- who went missing after an amphibious assault vehicle accident Thursday off the coast of southern California. On Sunday, the search was declared concluded, all eight were declared deceased and recovery efforts began. 

“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer said in a Marine Corps news release. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

The eight missing, in addition to one Marine declared dead at the scene of the accident, were identified Monday morning: 

  • Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas (dead at the scene)
  • Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California
  • Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California
  • Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin
  • U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
  • Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon
  • Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas
  • Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon
  • Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California

"Their service, commitment and courage will always be remembered by the nation they served," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement. "While the incident remains under investigation, I want to assure our service members and their families that we are committed to gathering all the facts, understanding exactly how this incident occurred, and preventing similar tragedies in the future."

The AAV had 16 onboard in total -- the other seven were rescued and two were hospitalized.

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

An investigation into the accident is ongoing and the Marine Corps has suspended all AAV water operations. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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