Family identifies Marine killed during training in Twentynine Palms, California
By SHELBY REYNOLDS | Naples Daily News, Fla. (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 17, 2017
A Marine from Naples has died following a training accident in Twentynine Palms, California, his family said Monday.
Lance Cpl. Austin Ruiz, 19, was killed in the incident, his father said in an interview. The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center announced the death in a Facebook post and noted that another Marine was injured.
Lt. Karen Holliday told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the accident occurred at 5:05 p.m. Friday at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base
Family and friends said Monday that Ruiz always wanted to be a Marine, even as a child.
"He did touch a lot of people in this community," Nell Ruiz said Monday of his son, who attended Naples High School. "He was very loved by all of us."
The Marines were conducting unit training, according to the unit's Facebook post that notes the announcement "with heavy hearts." The training was in preparation for the start of Integrated Training Exercise 2-17. Twentynine Palms is in the Mojave Desert of southern California's San Bernardino County, about 150 miles east of Los Angeles.
The incident is under investigation, according to the Facebook post.
The two Marines were participating in small arms live-fire training ahead of the start of an Integrated Training Exercise, according to the website Military.com. The exercise, typically known as ITX, is a standard pre-deployment workup that infantry units and some support units complete.
"We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines killed and injured," Brig. Gen. William F. Mullen III, commanding general of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, said in the post. "Our first priority is to support them during this difficult time."
Nell Ruiz, a longtime resident of Naples, said Monday that the family hopes his son's remains will be returned to Southwest Florida for a funeral at Lovers Key State Park, a 712-acre state park off Bonita Springs with white, sandy beaches and barrier islands.
Austin Ruiz posted pictures on his Facebook page from a recent trip to Tokyo for Christmas with his fiancé. They got engaged on Christmas Eve, according to a Facebook post.
"Christmas this year was perfect," one post read. "i (sic) couldn't have asked for more."
Marines take part in a small arms fire mock battlefield scenario, as they participate in an enhanced motorized operation during Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. on Feb. 15, 2015.
EFREN LOPEZ/U.S. AIR FORCE