Marine commander fired after deadly assault vehicle accident

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. Marine Corps commander was fired Tuesday following an investigation into the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle in the ocean off Southern California that killed nine service members last year.

Col. Christopher J. Bronzi was relieved of command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit by Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, a statement said.

Rudder relieved Bronzi “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,” the statement said.

The amphibious assault vehicle had 16 people aboard when it sank rapidly in 385 feet (117 meters) of water off the coast of San Clemente Island on July 30, 2020, while it was returning to a Navy ship.

Seven Marines were rescued. One Marine was pronounced dead at the scene and the bodies of seven Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman were later recovered by an underwater team.

In October, Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner was relieved of command of the landing team of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th MEU, based on “a substantial amount of information and data,” according to a statement that also cited loss of trust.

A report on the cause of the sinking has yet to be released.

Col. Fridrik Fridriksson was named to take over command of the 15th MEU, which is based at Camp Pendleton, California, and is currently deployed in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the Marine Corps said.

San Clemente Island, lying about 70 miles (112.6 kilometers) northwest of San Diego, is a training ground for the Marine Corps and Navy.

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