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Marines identify 8 servicemen presumed dead after training accident off San Clemente Island

The U.S. flag was lowered to half-staff at Park Semper Fi in San Clemente on Friday
The U.S. flag was lowered to half-staff at Park Semper Fi in San Clemente on Friday.
(Associated Press)

The U.S. Marines late Sunday released the names of eight service members — including three from Southern California — who went missing during a training exercise off San Clemente Island last week.

The seven Marines and one sailor are presumed dead, officials said. The search-and-rescue operation ended earlier Sunday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search-and-rescue effort,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, sailors and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

One Marine, Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene before being transported by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4.

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Three of those presumed dead are from Southern California, including two from L.A. County:

— Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.

— Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

— Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wis., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.

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— U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, Calif., a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

— Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

— Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

— Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Ore., a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

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— Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4.

Two others were injured and remain hospitalized, one of them in critical condition. Five other service members were rescued.

With the assistance of helicopters, ships and boats, more than 1,000 square nautical miles were searched, but it was determined that there was little probability of successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident, officials said. The 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle, which sank in water hundreds of feet deep, was beyond the reach of divers.

The incident occurred when the craft carrying 15 Marines and one Navy sailor began taking on water about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the Marine Corps.

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Efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the missing servicemen, officials said.

“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be, with our Marines’ and sailor’s families during this difficult time,” Bronzi said.


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