A Marine has died after an amphibious assault vehicle sank to the bottom of the Del Mar boat basin during a training exercise, according to military officials.
“To the family, our condolences go to them, on behalf of the Assault Amphibian Battalion and obviously all the Marines here at Camp Pendleton,” said Maj. Daniel J. Thomas.
Three instructors and three students were conducting driver training in the boat basin when the vehicle sank at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Friday, military officials said.
Five Marines were able to exit the vehicle. The sixth Marine was trapped.
Search and rescue crews worked to pump oxygen into the AAV for the Marine who was trapped inside for several hours, according to a spokesperson with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to recover the Marine in time,” said Maj. Thomas.
He was recovered at approximately 2:15 p.m. and transported by Mercy Air to Scripps La Jolla. The Marine was pronounced dead at 2:47 p.m.
Three of the five Marines who escaped the vehicle were rushed to local hospitals. Two Marines walked away without injury.
The name of the deceased Marine was not released pending family notification. The Marine Corps would not say if he was an instructor or a student.
The training vehicle was part of the Amphibious Assault Vehicle Schools Battalion. The Marines use the vehicle to transport troops from ship to shore.
“Roughly about a 32 to 36 ton vehicle that is made to travel on land and under the water,” said Maj. Thomas. “For them this is their initial driver training in the water at the basin controlled environment before they go into the open ocean.”
The behemouths were introduced in 1972 and feature a crew of three. They can carry an additional 20 Marines, according to the North County Times.
“The vehicle is never operated alone. We always have two vehicles that go out so it can have a chase vehicle with it. So we had two vehicles in the water so that if something does occur, another vehicle can respond. Those procedures were in place and being followed,” said Maj. Thomas.
He said the Marines were not placing a hold on training.
“But obviously we’re going to take a look at this and the commander will then make a decision before anything goes back into place to make sure any safety briefing that need to be given are conducted,” said Maj. Thomas.
The incident is under investigation.
“There will be a thorough investigation into this mishap that occurred and based off that, we will have… reports that come, lessons learned in terms of preventing anything like this from happening,” said Maj. Thomas.