SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Officials have called off the search and rescue operation for eight service members who went missing after an amphibious assault vehicle accident off San Clemente Island last week.
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Force said in a release Sunday that all eight members — seven Marines and one sailor — are presumed dead after it was determined, "that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident."
Officials say they searched for 40 hours covering more than 1,000 square nautical miles in their efforts to find the missing service members.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”
Officials said their efforts will now turn to recovery of the missing service members. An offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator, as well as Undersea Rescue Command, are surveying the seafloor to help.
“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines’ and Sailor’s families during this difficult time,” said Bronzi. “As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and Sailor.”
On July 30, 15 Marines and one sailor were participating in the training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island when the AAV began taking on water and sank. Of the 16 service members on board, eight Marines were rescued, one Camp Pendleton Marine died at the hospital, and two others were hospitalized in critical condition as of Saturday.
The cause of the accident is still being investigated. The names of the Marines and sailor will be released 24 hours after their next of kin are notified, officials added.
The USS John Finn, the USS Makin Island, the USS Somerset, and the USS San Diego all assisted in the search and rescue effort, as well as 11 U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters, multiple Navy and Marine Corps small boats, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.