Marine battalion commander fired after amphibious vehicle accident killed 9 near San Diego

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Lt. Curtis Khol/U.S. Navy/TNS

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The commander of a Camp Pendleton-based battalion was relieved of command months after a fatal amphibious vehicle accident killed nine service members in July, the Marines said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Michael Regner, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment was relieved due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command as a result of the assault amphibious vehicle mishap,” according to the statement.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, ordered Regner’s relief based on “a substantial amount of information and data,” the statement said, without providing details. An IMEF spokesman declined to say what information and data the decision was based on because the investigation is ongoing.

Eight Marines and a sailor were killed July 30 when their assault amphibious vehicle sank in 385 feet of water. Of the 16 on board, seven were able to escape. One Marine’s body was recovered immediately. The eight other victims were recovered a week later by a Navy undersea salvage crew.

The lost service members ranged in age from 18 to 23.

The Marines and sailors of Battalion Landing Team ¼, based at Camp Pendleton, were training with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group near San Clemente Island on July 30. Their assault amphibious vehicle began taking on water on its way back to the amphibious transport dock Somerset around 5:45 p.m., according to the Marine Corps.

While details about the specific vehicle involved in the accident are not yet known, such vehicles have been in service since the early 1970s, though they have been updated and rehabilitated in the years since. Replacing the vehicles with expeditionary fighting vehicles was a top priority for the Marines, but a budget crunch in 2011 led to scrapping those plans.

A planned replacement for the assault amphibious vehicle is still in development.

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