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A U.S. Navy helicopter lands aboard USS Makin Island during a search and rescue operations following a training mishap off the coast of Southern California in July. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick Crosley
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Marine commander relieved of duty due to deadly ocean training accident

CAMP PENDLETON — The commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force today relieved from duty the commander of a landing team involved in a training accident that killed nine young servicemen in the ocean near San Clemente Island, the Marine Corps announced.

USMC Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl removed Lt. Col. Michael Regner from his post as commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit “due to a loss in trust and confidence in his ability to command” following the sinking of an assault amphibious vehicle about 80 miles west of Encinitas.

“Although the command investigation (into the accident) has compiled a substantial amount of information and data which formed the basis for Heckl’s decision, it is still ongoing as the Marine Corps continues to investigate, assess all relevant information and take appropriate actions,” I MEF public affairs advised in a prepared statement.

The amphibious troop-transport vehicle carrying the Camp Pendleton- based personnel — eight Marine riflemen and a Navy hospital corpsman, ranging in age from 18 to 22 — foundered for unknown reasons about 5:45 p.m. July 30 during a maritime training mission and went down in water nearly 400 feet deep.

One Marine was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. The naval Undersea Rescue Command recovered the other victims’ remains from the seafloor eight days later.

Seven members of the crew aboard the AAV were able to escape the sinking craft and survived.

The Marine Corps has not released an official determination of the cause of the accident.