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Commander fired after Marine Corps AAV accident that killed 9

Lt. Col. Michael Regner, commander of the unit involved in July’s amphibious assault vehicle accident, was relieved Tuesday of his command by Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force, the Marine Corps said.

Regner, the former commander of Battalion Landing Team 1/4 with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was relieved Tuesday “due to a loss in trust and confidence in his ability to command as a result of the assault amphibious vehicle mishap that took place off the coast of Southern California July 30, 2020,” a Marine Corps press release said.

The AAV involved in the incident was returning to the amphibious transport dock Somerset after conducting a training raid at San Clemente Island, California, when it “rapidly sank” in about 1,500 meters of water with 15 Marines and one sailor on board.

Half the Marines were able to escape the vehicle, but one, Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, a 19-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead on the scene, while two other Marines were rushed to the hospital, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

Still onboard the AAV when it sank were Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California, a rifleman, Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California, a rifleman, Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a rifleman, U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California, a hospital corpsman, Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 20, of Bend, Oregon, a rifleman, Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 22, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman, Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18, of Portland, Oregon, a rifleman and Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California, a rifleman.

The sinking was the deadliest single training accident in the history of the AAV, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

The bodies of the deceased eight service members were recovered with the vehicle.

“Although the Command Investigation has compiled a substantial amount of information and data which formed the basis for Heckl’s decision, it is still ongoing as the Marine Corps continues to investigate, assess all relevant information, and take appropriate actions,” the press release said.

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