OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Family members, public leaders and service members were in mourning Tuesday after the military found remains of missing servicemen and the amphibious assault vehicle that sunk off the coast of San Clemente Island.
“I felt for the family. I can’t imagine to have my brother in that sort of situation,” said Marine veteran Evan Leal.
Leal knows the family of fallen Private First Class Bryan Baltierra. He launched a GoFundMe page to help the family.
“As a Marine, I just felt like I had to do something to take some sort of responsibility, more than just sending my thoughts and prayers,” Leal said.
The Marines say the amphibious assault vehicle sank to a depth of 385 feet after it began taking on water during a routine training exercise.
Marine veteran Rick Noda describes training in the AAVs during Desert Storm.
“[There] is a steel shut door. I mean literally, when that door closes, it seals, so when you jump into the water all you hear is the heat, diesel and the smell and we used to think floating coffin because if one thing goes wrong, it goes right to the ground,” Noda said.
USMC Commandant General David Berger has ordered the inspection of all AAVs across the fleet.
“I’ve directed an immediate suspension of amphibious assault vehicle water operations until the causal factors of this mishap are better understood,” Berger said.
Meanwhile, Noda hopes recovering the AAV and bodies can bring the families some closure.
“As a military veteran, the closure that the family gets to see the actual body is something that — I told my wife the minute it happened — that I hope they find the bodies because you need to hold, even though it is passed away, that closure is super important,” Noda said.
President Donald Trump tweeted his prayers for the families of these fallen servicemen.
Meanwhile, two other Marines are in critical but stable condition at the hospital.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags to be flown at half staff in honor of the fallen.