Search and rescue ship joins desperate hunt for eight missing military service members

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The submarine support ship called HOS ‘Dominator’ has joined officials in the search for seven Marines and one Sailor continued after an amphibious assault vehicle sank in 600 feet of water, causing at least one Marine to die and injuring two others. 

The Marines have subsequently suspended the use of amphibious assault vehicles while they are inspected. 

Marine officials announced Friday that an amphibious assault vehicle, or AAV, entered the water around 5:45pm near San Clemente Island in Los Angeles County.

One sailor and 15 Marines were inside the military vehicle when it sank into the Pacific Ocean. 

One Marine was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla where he died. Two injured Marines were taken to San Diego-area hospitals where one is in critical condition and the other is stable. 

Eight service members were rescued by officials. Eight remaining service men have yet to be located and are presumed dead.

The search for seven Marines and one Sailor continues after an amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of Southern California on Thursday

The vehicle took on water at around 5.45pm while 15 Marines and one sailor were inside near San Clemente Island in Los Angeles County. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is seen during training on Monday

The vehicle took on water at around 5.45pm while 15 Marines and one sailor were inside near San Clemente Island in Los Angeles County. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is seen during training on Monday

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said that they have notified all the families of the Marines and Sailor involved in the tragic accident. 

The search for the remaining service members continued Saturday when HOS ‘Dominator’ joined the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard in the search.

The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main warfighting organization. There are three such groups which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces. 

Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said during a press conference at Camp Pendleton that all their AAV’s will undergo a review.  

‘All AAVs across the fleet will be inspected,’ said Gen. Berger, USNI News reports. 

‘This is to ensure out of an abundance of caution that we take the time, give the time to the recovery and find out what actually happened. [AAV] units can continue to train ashore. We’ll wait until we have a better picture.’ 

Pictured: A U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) during ongoing search and rescue relief operations

Pictured: A U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) during ongoing search and rescue relief operations 

The US Navy, Marines and Coast Guards were joined by submarine support ship HOS 'Dominator' to help with search efforts this weekend.

The US Navy, Marines and Coast Guards were joined by submarine support ship HOS ‘Dominator’ to help with search efforts this weekend. 

Pictured: Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joseph Rivera, a search and rescue swimmer assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island , looks out of a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk while conducting search and rescue relief operations following

Pictured: Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joseph Rivera, a search and rescue swimmer assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island , looks out of a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk while conducting search and rescue relief operations following

The AAV sank while leaving  Clemente Island for amphibious warship USS Somerset, and is believed to have dropped down in 600ft of water

The AAV sank while leaving  Clemente Island for amphibious warship USS Somerset, and is believed to have dropped down in 600ft of water 

But it’s unclear how long the wait will be because the sheer depth of the AAV’s descent into the water complicated matters.

Gen. Osterman added that the AAV ‘is really below the depth that a diver could do.

‘So we are working and we really owe an incredible gratitude and thanks to our Navy and Coast Guard brethren who’ve helped us in this endeavor. They are actually working with us to provide assets that can basically get down and take a look at the AAV.’

Lt. Gen. Joseph D. Osterman, the I Marine Expeditionary Force commander, added: ‘We are continuing search and rescue operations,’

‘We have not leaned into recovery operations. We are still looking for the seven Marines and one sailor who we have not yet found.’  

At the moment, military officials have not classified the mission as a recovery and are still actively involved in a search-and-rescue operation

At the moment, military officials have not classified the mission as a recovery and are still actively involved in a search-and-rescue operation

The identities of the service members have not been disclosed, but an official said their ages likely ranged from mid-30s to as young as 18-years-old

The identities of the service members have not been disclosed, but an official said their ages likely ranged from mid-30s to as young as 18-years-old

Search and rescue options began immediately after the AAV sank. 

At the time of the accident, the Marines had been training on San Clemente Island and were returning to the amphibious warship USS Somerset. 

‘An immediate response was provided by two additional [AAVs] that were with them…. as well as a safety boat,’said Osterman.

The island, which sits about 78 miles from Camp Pendleton, is managed by the Navy and houses a number of training facilities. 

The New York Times reports that two nearby amphibious vehicles witnessed the AAV sink and were able to positively identify the exact location.

 ‘The adjacent A.A.V.’s watched it go down, and at 26 tons, the assumption is that it went down to the bottom,’ said Lt. Osterman. 

Two nearby AAV's witnessed the accident and were later able to help locate the exact area where the ship sank

Two nearby AAV’s witnessed the accident and were later able to help locate the exact area where the ship sank 

The Marines have suspended the use of AAV's on Friday and they vehicles were undergo inspections

The Marines have suspended the use of AAV’s on Friday and they vehicles were undergo inspections 

He estimated that oldest service member aboard was in their mid-30s and the youngest was near 18-years-old. 

The Marines and Sailor were wearing combat gear and flotation devices at the time. 

‘This mishap is under investigation. We will share the results of it once it is complete,’ said Gen. Berger. 

There are about 800 AAV’s in the Marin’e inventory that can carry up to 21 people and each weighs 26 tons.

In 2017, 15 Marines were injured when a AAV they were training in caught fire at Camp Pendleton. 

Marines have utilized the vehicles to move troops from water to land since the 1970s.  

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said that they have notified all the families of the Marines and Sailor involved in the tragic accident

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit said that they have notified all the families of the Marines and Sailor involved in the tragic accident

There are about 800 AAV's in the Marin'e inventory that can carry up to 21 people and each weighs 26 tons

There are about 800 AAV’s in the Marin’e inventory that can carry up to 21 people and each weighs 26 tons

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