Military identifies sailor and 7 Marines in deadly training accident off California coast

15th Meu, Uss Makin Island Conduct Search And Rescue Relief Operations
PACIFIC OCEAN (July 31, 2020) – Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joseph Rivera, a search and rescue swimmer assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), looks out of a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk while conducting search and rescue relief operations following an AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle mishap off the coast of Southern California, July 30, 2020. Assisting in the search and rescue relief operations are the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113), multiple U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopters and small boats from USS Makin Island, the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD 22), as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Binion)

The military has identified the people presumed dead in an amphibious assault vehicle training accident off Southern California last week.

Sixteen were on board the AAV when crew members reported they had taken on water during shore-to-ship operations near San Clemente Island around 5:45 pm PDT Thursday, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Force said in a release Sunday.

Five were rescued and taken aboard the USS Somerset, but at least one died and eight others are presumed dead, the release said. Those rescued were wearing normal combat gear including body armor and an inflatable vest. Some were found floating, Gen. David Berger, commandant of the US Marine Corps, said.

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene before being taken by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, according to the release.

A sailor and seven Marines are presumed dead:

  • 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, a rifleman
  • US Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
  • Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman
  • Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman
  • Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman
  • Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman

The amphibious assault vehicle weighs 26 tons and is believed to have sunk to the ocean floor, which is hundreds of feet deep there.

The search ended Saturday night after 40 hours, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said

“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, a commanding officer.

Similar training has been suspended “until the causal factors of this mishap are better understood,” Berger said.