SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Service members presumed dead after a training accident off the San Diego coast last week were publicly identified late Sunday night. The names have been released of seven Marines and one Navy sailor who were missing after the accident and are now the subject of a recovery mission. One Marine who died at the hospital following the accident was also identified.
The following service members were identified by military officials:
Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California
Baltierra was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. A GoFundMe page has been established in Baltierra's memory.
*Pfc. Baltierra was initially listed as 19 years old in previously released information The I Marine Expeditionary Force has updated his age to 18.
Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California
Barranco was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Barranco.
Barranco's parents told News 8, he grew up always wanting to become a Marine. His mom said he used to text her every day to tell her how much he loved her.
“He would just text me out of nowhere ‘I love you, mom,' 'I miss you,' 'good morning, mom,' 'I love our family.’ [He was] so sweet, kind generous,” said his mother Guadalupe Garcia.
She said her 21-year-old son grew up in Montebello.
“He wanted to be in the service since he was 4 years old,” she said. “I had to support him - that’s your dream - and we did.”
“I lost two people - I lost my son and my best friend,” said Barranco’s father, Marco Barranco Sr.
“He wanted to serve this country because of me as an immigrant. He always said that he owed this country so much because they gave me the opportunity to be here,” he said.
“He died with pride. He deserves the honors,” he added.
Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Bath was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
"He always told me 'mom, I don’t want people thanking me for my service because I haven't done anything', but he has now and he’s my hero," said Aleta Bath, mother of Pfc. Evan Bath. "He didn’t like me calling him that, but he‘s my hero and he deserves that title now."
She said Evan was compelled to help others.
"He would say ‘mom, I’ve got to fight for those people that can’t fight for themselves,'" recalled Aleta.
She heard from her son the day of the fateful mission.
"I got to talk to him via text that day to say ‘I love you’ so I got to say that. So, I knew he was happy. It’s comforting," said Aleta.
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
Gnem was a hospital corpsman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. Savannah Henne, the girlfriend of Christopher Gnem, said she lost the love of her life. She said Christopher was her “absolute best friend in the whole world.”
"Chris will have my heart forever and always. I will honor your memory forever. I love you more than anything in this world and I’m so sorry. Nothing nor I will ever be the same again," said Henne, who said the two planned to wed after his mission ended.
A GoFundMe page for Gnem's family will help with funeral and other expenses.
Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon
Ostrovsky was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU.
Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas
Perez was pronounced dead at the scene Thursday before being transported by helicopter to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He was a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4, 15th MEU. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with costs.
Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas
Rodd was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. A GoFundMe page has been established for Rodd's wife Jamie. News 8 learned he recently became a father.
Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon
Sweetwood was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. On a GoFundMe page for Sweetwood's family, his aunt wrote that he died the day before his 19th birthday.
Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California
Villanueva was a rifleman with Bravo Company, BLT 1/4, 15th MEU. Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey posted about Villanueva's death on Facebook on Monday.
After more than 40 hours, military officials ended their search and rescue operation late Saturday evening for the eight service members who went missing on Thursday during a training exercise off the coast of San Diego. The Marines said it may be the worst accident involving an amphibious assault vehicle since it entered service nearly 50 years ago.
Their AAV was heading back to a nearby Navy warship when it began taking on water and sank approximately a half-mile off San Clemente Island. Eight Marines were rescued, but one later died at a San Diego hospital. Military personnel from the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines searched approximately 1,000 square nautical miles but were unable to find the missing service members.
“To not have all the answers right now is heartbreaking,” said Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, Commanding General of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in a social media post. “Our hearts break for their friends and families. We pray they find comfort during this difficult time."
Five of the Marines who were rescued were back on their home warships as of Sunday. Two others were recovering in the hospital, including Dallas Truxal of Indiana.
Truxal was in the Intensive Care Unit immediately after arriving at the hospital but has since improved. By Saturday he was alert and talking to his parents, who are now by his bedside. Truxal’s family said their thoughts are with the families of the Marines and Sailor who are still missing.
A release sent on Sunday by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) stated that efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the missing Marines and sailor.
All eight service members are presumed deceased. The 15th MEU and the ARG leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident.
“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”