Eight troops missing after their landing craft sank off the Southern California coast during a training exercise are presumed dead, the Marine Corps announced Sunday. The Marines said they had called off the search that started late Thursday afternoon when the amphibious assault vehicle sank with 15 Marines and one Navy sailor aboard. Eight Marines were rescued, the AP reports; one of them later died, and two are in critical condition. The 26-ton, tank-like craft took on water and quickly sank in hundreds of feet of water—too deep for divers—making it difficult to reach. "It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort," said Col. Christopher Bronzi, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Marines ranged in age from 19 to their early 30s.
All of the Marines aboard were attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at nearby Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. They were wearing combat gear, including body armor and flotation vests, said Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The craft was one of 13 amphibious assault vehicles that had just completed an exercise. It was heading back to a Navy ship when it began taking on water about a half-mile from the Navy-owned island off San Diego. The search involved dozens of helicopters and ships. Efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the service members and investigating the sinking, officials said. The names of the victims will be released 24 hours after their families are notified.
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