Eight Marines relieved of duty in probe of training death at Camp Pendleton [Updated]
Eight Marines, including a battalion commander, have been relieved of duty after an investigation into a training accident at Camp Pendleton in which a sergeant drowned inside an amphibious assault vehicle.
The investigation, ordered by Brig. Gen. Michael M. Brogan, commanding general of the training command, found mechanical problems with the 26-ton vehicle, "nonstandard" training and leadership failures.
Among other lapses was the lack of a safety officer on site during the Jan. 14 training exercise.
The amphibious vehicle sank in the Del Mar boat basin on base. Five Marines were able to escape, but a sixth, Sgt. Wesley Rice, could not. Brogan went to Texas this week to brief the Rice family on the investigation.
The investigation was unable to determine why Rice did not escape. When last seen, he was moving toward an exit, a spokesman said.
Rice, 27, was deployed to Iraq twice and received a Combat Action Ribbon for having been under fire and returning fire. He was an instructor with the Assault Amphibian Schools Battalion. He is survived by his wife, Lesley, and their 10-month-old daughter, Gabriella.
[Updated at 10:40a.m.: The eight Marines relieved of duty, including the battalion commander, Lt. Col. James A. Harris, will receive no further punishment but the incident will be noted on their annual fitness reports, which could effect their promotion and retention possibilities. Also, the mechanical problem was a throttle that became stuck because of a disconnected linkage that should have slowed the vehicle.]
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Sgt. Wesley Rice and wife, Lesley. Credit: KSWB-TV Channel 5