CAMP PENDLETON — Fifteen Marines were injured and five were in critical condition at hospitals in Orange and San Diego counties, after an assault amphibious vehicle burst into flames during a training accident Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, at this seaside military base, officials said.
Marine Corps officials are investigating the cause of the accident that injured members of the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. The accident is the second-largest multiple-injury incident in the last two years at the Marine Corps base.
Five other Marines are listed in serious condition, one in stable condition, and two have minor injuries, said 1st Lt. Paul Gainey. Two other Marines were being treated for unknown medical conditions.
The accident occurred around 9:33 a.m. in the San Mateo area of the base, during a pre-deployment readiness evaluation including the assault amphibious vehicle, Gainey said.
The armored full-track vehicles, known as amtracks, can transport as many as 20 Marines from sea to land. The vehicles, in operation since the 1970s, weigh more than 25 tons and are armed with a .50 caliber machine gun and a 40mm rapid fire grenade launcher. They can travel across land at 45 mph and can surf 10-foot waves.
In 2003, the Marine Corps announced plans to replace the assault vehicle with a proposed expeditionary fighting vehicle, as a way to transport a full Marine rifle squad to shore from an amphibious assault ship beyond the horizon faster and with more armor. In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to cancel the project.
Just two weeks ago, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer visited the base and chatted with Marines from the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, who showed off their amphibious vehicles and demonstrated maintenance. Typically, Marines spend 12 to 13 hours servicing the vehicles for one hour of operation.
During the tour, a 19-year-old private asked the secretary when a new version of the assault amphibious vehicle might be ready….