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7 Marines, sailor presumed dead after California incident

7 Marines, sailor presumed dead after California incident
© US Marine Corps

The seven Marines and one sailor who went missing following a training accident off the coast of Southern California on Thursday are presumed dead, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement.

Officials said that they concluded a search and rescue operation on Saturday after determining that there was little chance of successfully locating the service members. Efforts will now begin to find their remains. 

Fifteen Marines and one sailor were involved in the incident, which took place after the amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in began to take on water and sink off the coast of San Clemente, Calif., the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said. Of the eight Marines rescued, one died and two others were critically injured. 

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

The individuals involved in the accident were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The marine unit said that it is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

The accident reportedly happened as the vehicle traveled from San Clemente Island to a ship that was about 1,000 meters away from the shore. Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said at a news conference that two other amphibious assault vehicles witnessed the accident and that officials were able to locate where it sank, according to The New York Times

The Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard assisted in the rescue mission, the Marine unit said. 

"As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and Sailor," Bronzi said.