Seven missing Marines and one sailor are feared dead after a training accident with an amphibious assault vehicle off the coast of Southern California.
The effort to find them has concluded after an extensive 40-hour search following the incident Thursday, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said. Officials determined there was little probability of a successful outcome.
SAN DIEGO – The search continued Saturday for eight U.S. service members missing after their landing craft went down in hundreds of feet of water off the Southern California coast following a deadly accident.
They were aboard an amphibious assault vehicle that had just completed a 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.
The 26-ton, tank-like craft quickly sank in hundreds of feet of water — too deep for divers — making it difficult to reach.
One of eight Marines rescued from the water later died.
All of the Marines aboard were attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at nearby Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. They ranged in age from 19 to early 30s and all were wearing combat gear, including body armor and flotation vests, Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said earlier this week.
The Marines included 22-year-old Dallas Truxal, who is originally from Central Indiana. Family members tell us he was taken to the hospital unresponsive and in critical condition after nearly drowning.
The family says what happened next was truly a miracle.
“Yesterday afternoon the nurse called my sister and said I asked him if he can hear me squeeze my fingers and he squeezed her fingers,” Catrina Tomamichel, Truxal’s Aunt said.
Tomamichel said people around the world have supported them through this scary situation. Now they’re here to support the other military families as rescue crews continue to search for the eight service members still missing.
“We’re praying for them. Also, remember that those men and woman are heroes no matter what,” Tomamichel said.
The vehicle, nicknamed an “amtrac” — short for “amphibious tractor” — was designed to be buoyant and had three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches. The Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land.
The vehicles have been used since 1972, and continually refurbished. Friday’s accident was the deadliest of several accidents involving amtracs that have occurred during Camp Pendleton exercises in recent years.