Investigation blames rough water, openings for assault vehicle sinking
August 15, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Two small openings and rough water were responsible for a Marine amphibious assault vehicle’s sinking off Okinawa’s northeast coast on June 9.
According to a Marine Corps news release, the openings were not detected during a preliminary visual inspection after a civilian commercial contractor recovered the vehicle July 15.
A more thorough investigation “determined that two small openings undetected during the visual inspection of the vehicle, compounded by rough water while towing, were the cause of the accident,” 2nd Lt. Clinton P. Gebke, assistant media relations officer for Marines on Okinawa, stated in the release.
The AAV sank in 10 feet of water during routine training, when it was being towed after experiencing mechanical problems. Four crewmembers escaped with minor injuries.
The news release did not specify the kind or location of the openings.
The $2.3 million vehicle, weighing 46,000 pounds, was raised to the surface by a crane and then placed onto a barge. Water inside the vehicle was pumped into a bladder to prevent any possible pollutants from being dumped back into the sea.
The incident occurred off Camp Schwab not far from where a controversial new offshore Marine air station is to be built on reclaimed land and part of a reef.
The accident drew protests from local officials and anti-base activists opposed to plans for the new base.
“The Marine Corps takes safety and its responsibility to the environment very seriously and it regrets any anxiety this may have caused the residents of Okinawa,” Gebke said. “The Marine Corps will take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of such a mishap.”
Since the accident a thorough training and safety stand down was conducted, as well as an extensive maintenance inspection, Gebke said.
“As a result, AAVs from the unit involved and their crew will resume training in the near future,” he said.