One dead and several missing after US Marines vessel sinks off the coast of California

August 01, 2020

One person has died and eight are still missing after a US Marines landing craft sunk off the coast of California during a military exercise.

A search operation is under way to find those missing, involving helicopters and inflatable boats, after their 26-tonne landing craft began to take on water around half a mile (0.8km) from the shore.

Eight marines have already been rescued from the water with two in a stable condition in hospital.

The Marines are with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at nearby Camp Pendleton between Los Angeles and San Diego and ranged in age from 19 to their early 30s.

All of those missing were wearing combat gear, body armour and flotation vests.

Lieutenant General Joseph Osterman, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said "literally every asset we have available" was part of the search operation, but was working on the assumption "that it went completely to the bottom" of the sea bed.

The vehicle, known as an AAV, is naturally buoyant and used to take Marines and their gear from the ships to land.

They are fitted with three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches.

There were 13 AAVs in total taking part in the exercise.

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Waterborne exercises have been suspended by the Marine Corps commandant, General David Berger, out of "an abundance of caution".

In 2017, 15 people were injured when their AAV hit a gas line, triggering a fire that engulfed the craft at Camp Pendleton. In 2011, one Marine died when one of the vehicles sank close to the military base.

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