CAMP PENDLETON — Officials from the 1st Marine Division on Monday, Dec. 11 released a heavily redacted report confirming that a ruptured gas line struck by an assault amphibian vehicle during a drill was the source of a fiery explosion that injured 15 service members during a combat exercise.
The Sept. 13 training accident, which occurred on the base along Range 301 Road near Bravo 3 combat town, injured 14 Marines and a Navy corpsman.
Tagen Schmidt, 19, gets a tender kiss from mom, Tamby Clawson, as he recovers in the burn unit of UC San Diego Medical Center’s burn unit after a September training accident at Camp Pendleton. He was promoted from Marine Private 1st Class to Lance Cpl. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)A Multi Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) exits an Armored Assault Vehicle(AAV) during a demonstration to show how machines could lead an attack on a beach ahead of marines at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The MUTT is an unmanned vehicle that is controlled by a operator who can drive and fire the weapon. Precision Remotes makes the remote controlled weapon which can be installed on other vehicles too. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)An AAV (Armored Assault Vehicle) approaches the beach during the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)Cpl. Douglas Woodside, left, takes part in a ceremony promoting Tagen Schmidt from Private 1st Class to Lance Cpl. Tagen was surprised by his platoon at UC San Diego Medical Center’s burn unit where he was a patient following a training accident at Camp Pendleton. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)Tagen Schmidt, 19, is congratulated by his platoon Charlie Company 1st Battalion 1st Marines, after he is promoted in rank at UC San Diego Medical Center’s burn unit following a training accident at Camp Pendleton. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)U.S. Marines pose with Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders on an amphibious assault vehicle outside Everbank Field before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)U.S. Marines pose on an amphibious assault vehicle displayed outside Everbank Field before an NFL football game Sunday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Los Angeles Chargers Nov. 12, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)The Marine Corps selected 17 miles of coast between Oceanside and San Clemente as the site for Camp Pendleton, a training base whose history is intertwined with San Juan Capistrano’s. (File photo by Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register/SCNG) ///ADDITIONAL INFO: Slices.AAVTraining.xxxx – 12/4/15 – PHOTO BY JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER – 1st Marine Division will conduct exercise Steel Knight 16, a scenario-driven amphibious and large-scale combined arms, live-fire exercise integrating aviation and logistical support from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Logistics Group and I MEF Headquarters Group. The exercise will take place across training areas aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., inland at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center Twentynine Palms. Amphibious operations will be conducted with U.S. Navy Expeditionary Strike Group 3 along the beaches at Camp Pendleton. Picture made at Camp Pendleton, California on Friday, December 4, 2015.A U.S. Marine helicopter takes off from the landing pad at UCI Medical Center in Orange on Monday, Sep. 18, 2017. Officials from the 1st Marine Division just released a report confirming that a ruptured gas line struck by an assault amphibian vehicle during a drill was the source of a fiery explosion that injured 15 service members during a combat exercise. Several of the Marines injured in the accident were treated at UCI Burn Center and then transported to a specialty military burn hospital in San Antonio. TX.(Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)Show Caption of Expand
The assault vehicle became stuck in a ditch when it went off the road after another vehicle became entangled in communication lines. When its driver tried to rock the AAV back and forth to dislodge it, a backfiring engine sparked the gas detonation causing the massive explosion, according to the 210-page report which confirmed earlier reports about the cause of the incident.
The assault vehicle carried a crew from the 1st Platoon, A Company and nine other Marines and a Navy corpsman attached to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
“The personnel involved executed their training to exit the burning vehicle,” Maj. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, said in a statement. “I found no fault on the part of these personnel for this accident.”
After the initial explosion, a large flame continued to burn from the engine compartment, according to the report.
A Marine in the troop command hatch was partially blown out of the assault vehicle. Several other Marines posted as air sentries for tactical problems jumped through the open hatches of the vehicle. Others ran to the back to open the hatch.
After it appeared all service members had made it out, a Marine was heard screaming from inside the AAV. Two unidentified Marines pulled the remaining service member from the vehicle.
A mass casualty plan was initiated, bringing in six paramedic units including one from the Orange County Fire Authority, three brush engines, a ladder truck, several air ambulances and a rescue firefighting aircraft.
The AAV continued to burn until the gas was turned off six hours later. The heat became so hot, the tracks on the vehicle became fused with the gas line.
The report revealed that the natural gas line was painted gray and blended with the ground. It also indicated that training officials did not know a truck had previously struck the gas line three months earlier. The investigation determined the ground around the gas line had eroded and hazard signs nearby were faded and weathered.
Recommendations from the report include a review of all locations with hazards to training and an update of warning signs. Investigators also recommend service members in training wear ballistic and fire retardant clothing including gloves, eye protection and underclothes.
The report also recommended that an unidentified Marine be considered for the Navy and Marine Corps medal for saving the life of a fellow Marine at tremendous personal danger, as well as recognition of others in their efforts to assist and triage the wounded.
“I am grateful to the medical staff at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, the Burn Center at the University of California San Diego, the Burn Center at the University of California Irvine, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton for their expert and compassionate care for our Marines and Corpsman,” Smith said. “The injured Marines and Corpsman have all been released from the hospital, but several are still receiving care for their burns.”
Smith said the investigation was required to determine if the Marines were injured in the line of duty.
“The command investigation has been completed, finding that the Marines and Corpsman were in the line of duty, and a copy of that investigation has been provided to the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West,” he said. “Once the safety investigation is completed it will also be provided to the Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West.”
Source: Oc Register