California (NBC) (10/14/20)— A Marine lieutenant colonel was relieved of command Tuesday following a training accident that killed nine U.S. service members off the California coast in late July, the military said.
Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner, commanding officer of the Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was relieved because of loss of trust and confidence, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton said.
Eight Marines and a Navy sailor died after the amphibious assault vehicle they were in sank off the coast of San Clemente Island, off the Southern California coast, on July 30.
Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, relieved Regner “due to a loss in trust and confidence in his ability to command as a result of the assault amphibious vehicle mishap,” the base said in a statement.
The investigation into the accident is ongoing, the Marine base statement said.
One Marine who died was recovered after the training accident. The bodies of the other eight service members were recovered in early August. The amphibious assault vehicle was found in 385 feet of water, the military has said.
In all, 15 Marines and a sailor were aboard the amphibious assault vehicle when it started taking on water around 5:45 p.m. July 30.
They signaled to the rest of the unit, Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman said at the time. Two amphibious assault vehicles and a safety boat were nearby, he said. All the Marines had floatation devices, and some of those rescued were found bobbing with the gear successfully deployed, Osterman said.
The 26-ton vehicle appeared to sink in “several hundred feet of water” more than 1,000 meters from the northwest corner of the island, he said then. The vehicle sank during a “shore-to-ship maneuver,” the military said.
A search-and-rescue operation was launched for any survivors, but it was called off after an extensive 40-hour search, the military said at the time.