Esper pays tribute to 1 Sailor and 8 Marines lost in fatal training accident
On July 30, 9 service members (1 Sailor and 8 Marines) were killed after an assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) sank off the California coast.
It is believed that the AAV which carried 16 troops and weighed about 26 tons, has sunk to the bottom of the Pacific during a deadly training accident. Seven of the troops were rescued, two of which were then later hospitalized. Following an intense, 40 hour search for the 9 missing bodies, only 1 body was found and pronounced dead on the scene; this was the body of the 20 year old Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez of New Braunfels, Texas. As for the remaining 8 service members, Fox News reported that “the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit announced that the others, from California, Texas, Wisconsin and Oregon, are “presumed dead”.”
Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper issued a statement, paying tribute to the lost service members:
A grateful nation and the Department of Defense grieves the tragic loss of the Marines and Sailor lost in the amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of San Clemente Island. Our prayers and condolences are with the family and friends of these brave young men:
Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas
Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California
Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California
Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon
Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas
Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon
Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California
Their service, commitment and courage will always be remembered by the nation they served. While the incident remains under investigation, I want to assure our service members and their families that we are committed to gathering all the facts, understanding exactly how this incident occurred, and preventing similar tragedies in the future.
In addition, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit to which all of the service members were attached also released the following statement on Twitter:
We will never forget the 8 Marines and 1 Sailor who lost their lives on July 30, 2020. And we will continue to honor their memories and the sacrifices of their loved ones. Please keep our 15th MEU families in your hearts throughout this difficult time. #HonorTheFallen @1stMEF pic.twitter.com/PdyZnWAqzU
— 15th MEU (@15thMEUOfficial) August 3, 2020
Thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the lost service members.