The intensive 40-hour search and rescue mission was canceled and eight missing service personnel are believed to have died.
The First Marine Corps announced that the search and rescue mission of seven US Marines and a sailor, who were missing after an accident off the coast of Southern California on Thursday, had been officially canceled.
On Sunday, the 15th Naval Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and the McCain Island Amphibious Prefab Group decided to conclude the 40-hour intensive search.
It is now assumed that all eight service members are dead.
“I decided, with a heavy heart, to conclude the search and rescue efforts,” said Colonel Christopher Bronze, the fifteenth commanding officer for the Middle East University. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guard to ongoing rescue efforts has been enormous.”
Marine, marine and coast guard helicopters inspected more than 1,000 nautical miles. USS John Finn, USS Makin Island, USS Somerset, and USS San Diego also helped in the search efforts.
Eleven US Navy SH-60 helicopters and several small Navy and Navy boats also participated in the US Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednor and an Coast Guard helicopter MH-60 Jayhawk from the Coast Guard sector in San Diego.
“Our thoughts and prayers were and will remain with the Marines families and sailors during this difficult time,” said Bronzi. “As we move into recovery operations, we will continue our comprehensive search for missing Marines and sailors.”
Fifteen Marines and sailors were inside an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) during the Fifteenth Marine Training Unit (MEU) and training the McCain Island Amphibious Prefab routine group near San Clemente Island when a “unfortunate accident” occurred.
The death of one of the Marines who served in the 15 MEU, Marine Corps I, was announced at the La Jolla Memorial Hospital Scripps.
Two others were wounded and transferred to local hospitals, one of which was listed in critical condition and the other in stable condition. A total of eight people were recovered from the drone, while eight others were confirmed missing.
Search and rescue efforts began immediately by the Marines with the assistance of the United States Navy and Coast Guard.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident,” Bronzi said in a statement. “I ask you to keep the Marines, sailors and their families in your prayers as we continue our research.”
According to the U.S. Naval Foundation, AAV has been “the main transportation method for pedestrians from sea to land since the 1970s,” and the Marines are currently testing their replacement.