8 U.S. Marines missing, 1 dead in accident off California coast

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One Marine has died, two were injured and eight others were missing after an amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of southern California, the Marines said early Friday.

They were travelling in the amphibious assault vehicle from the shores of San Clemente Island to a Navy ship Thursday evening when they reported that the vehicle was taking on water, said Lt. Cameron H. Edinburgh, a Marine Corps spokesperson for Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

Of the injured, one was hospitalized in critical condition and the other in stable condition, a Marine Corps statement said.

Military ships and helicopters on Friday were searching choppy seas for the missing amid moderate to strong winds. The Navy-owned island is about 112 kilometres offshore from San Diego.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. I ask that you keep our Marines, Sailors, and their families in your prayers as we continue our search,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, the unit’s commanding officer, said in another tweet from the Marines.

The Marine Expeditionary Force is the Marine Corps’ main war-fighting organization. There are three such groups, which are made up of ground, air and logistics forces.

Thursday’s accident marks the third in less than a decade that Camp Pendleton Marines have been injured or died in amphibious assault vehicles during training exercises.

In 2017, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their amphibious assault vehicle hit a natural gas line, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft during a training exercise.

And in 2011, a Marine died when an amphibious assault vehicle in a training exercise sank off the shores of Camp Pendleton.

The Marines use the amphibious assaults vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. They are nicknamed “amtracs” because the original name for the vehicle was “amphibious tractor.”

The armoured vehicles outfitted with machine-guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.