US missing Marine landing craft: boats, Choppers, Navy destroyer join search
More helicopters, boats and others, including a Navy destroyer have all joined in the search for eight people missing after their Marine landing craft went down in hundreds of feet of water off the Southern California coast.
Speaking on Friday, Lt Gen Joseph Osterman, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said, “Literally every asset we have available” was searching for seven Marines and a Navy corpsman.
He also disclosed that they were aboard an amphibious assault vehicle that was heading back to a Navy ship Thursday evening after a routine training exercise when it began taking on water about a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from Navy-owned San Clemente Island, off of San Diego. And that other assault vehicles equally responded quickly but couldn’t stop the 26-ton, tank-like vehicle from quickly sinking, Osterman said.
Osterman further said “The assumption is that it went completely to the bottom” several hundred feet below and that it was too deep for divers to reach, but the Navy and Coast Guard were discussing ways to reach the sunken vehicle to get a view inside it.
Already eight Marines have been rescued from the water but one later died and two remained in stable condition at a hospital, authorities said.
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at nearby Camp Pendleton is where all the Marines were attached to. They ranged in age from 19 to early 30s and all were wearing combat gear, including body armor, and flotation vests, Osterman said.
Usually the vehicle, known as an AAV but nicknamed an “amtrac,” for “amphibious tractor” is used to take Marines and their gear from Navy ships to land.
The missing one is among one of the 13 crafts involved in the exercise, it was designed to be naturally buoyant and had three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches, Osterman said.
The vehicles have been used since 1972, and continually refurbished. Marine Corps officials said Friday they did not know the age or other details of the one that sank.