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Seven Missing Marines And One Sailor Are Feared Dead After A Training Accident Off The California Coast

One marine was confirmed to have died after the vessel sank during a routine training exercise off the coast of Southern California.

Last updated on August 3, 2020, at 8:15 p.m. ET

Posted on August 2, 2020, at 1:10 p.m. ET

Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Binion / 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

One Marine has died and eight other missing service members are presumed dead after their vessel sank during a training exercise off the coast of Southern California, officials said Sunday.

On Thursday, 15 Marines and one sailor were taking part in a routine training exercise near San Clemente Island, when the amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in took on water and sank, the US Marine Corps said in a statement.

Eight Marines were rescued, including Lance Corporal Guillermo S. Perez, 20, a rifleman from New Braunfels, Texas, who was pronounced dead at the scene before being transported to a hospital. Two other Marines are currently being treated at a local hospital, the Marine Corps said. One was in critical condition while the second was upgraded to stable condition as of Monday.

Officials on Sunday morning ended their 40-hour search and rescue mission for the missing service members after determining "there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident," the statement said.

All seven Marines and the sailor are presumed dead.

The names of the presumed dead were released Monday. They were identified as Corporal Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas; Corporal Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California; Lance Corporal Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello California; Lance Corporal Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon; Private First Class Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California; Private First Class Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Private First Class Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon; and US Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California.

"It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort," Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in the statement. "The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous."

Officials said that over the course of the 40-hour search, the Marines, Coast Guard, and Navy searched more than 1,000 square nautical miles by helicopter, ship, and other watercraft. Officials will now shift their efforts to recovering the missing service members.

The circumstances around the incident are under investigation.

"Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines' and Sailor's families during this difficult time," Bronzi said.


An earlier version of this article, using information provided by the Marine Corps, misstated Baltierra’s age. He was 18.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.