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July’s accident that killed 9 is the deadliest AAV incident in Marine Corps history

The July 30 amphibious assault vehicle accident that killed nine was the deadliest AAV-related accident in Marine Corps history, according to data from the Naval Safety Center.

The vehicle was returning to the the amphibious transport dock Somerset after conducting a training raid with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit at San Clemente Island, California, when it reported taking on water.

The vehicle then rapidly sank with 15 Marines and one sailor on board.

Half of the service members were able to escape the sinking vehicle, and were pulled out of the water by a nearby safety boat and other amphibious assault vehicles participating in the exercise. One of the Marines who escaped was pronounced dead at the scene.

Seven other Marines and one sailor went down with the AAV, roughly 1,500 meters of the island’s shore.

Prior to the July 30 accident only eight Marines had died in AAV related mishaps, according to data the Naval Safety Center sent to Marine Corps Times on Friday.

The first recorded accident happened on November, 19, 1988, during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, according to the data.

On Nov. 19, 1988, Pfc. Christopher Bellecci was run over by an AAV while he was sleeping, according to a December 1988 issue of Navy Times.

Prior to July only two Marines had been killed due to the AAVs sinking during training exercises, according to the safety center’s data.

The first Marine died in a February 1994 accident.

The second, Sgt. Wesley J. Rice, died in 2011 when his AAV carrying six Marines sank in the Del Mar boat basin at Camp Pendleton, California, NBC San Diego reported.

The other five Marines were able to escape, but Rice was trapped in the AAV for several hours while rescue crews pumped oxygen into the vehicle and attempted to get him out.

In both 2005 and 2017 amphibious assault vehicles were involved in two Class A mishaps that did not involve the loss of life, the Naval Safety Center told Marine Corps Times.

A Class A mishap is defined by the Navy as any mishap that results in $2,500,000 or more in damages, a fatality or a permanent total disability, according to the Navy Safety Center website.

The 2017 incident left 14 Marines and one sailor severely injured when the vehicle they were in burst into flames during a training exercise, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

The cause of July’s tragic AAV sinking is still under investigation, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger has ordered a cease to all AAV training exercises until the cause can be determined and fixed.

The remains of the eight service members trapped inside the AAV were recovered Aug. 7 and returned to their families on Aug. 13, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

A private memorial service will be held by the 15th MEU on Friday.

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