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The head of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been fired following the conclusion of a command investigation into the deadliest training accident involving an amphibious assault vehicle in Marine Corps history, Corps officials have announced.

Col. Christopher Bronzi was relieved of command on Tuesday by Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, who had lost confidence in Bronzi’s ability to command, a Marine Corps news release says.

Eight Marines and one sailor died on July 30 when their AAV took on water and sank off San Clemente Island, California. At the time of the accident, they were assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, and they were training with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group

Bronzi, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq in April 2004, is the second officer to be fired in connection with the deadly accident. Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner was relieved as commander of 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in October.

No further information about what led to Bronzi’s firing was immediately available. 

The investigation into the deadly sinking will be released publicly after the families of the Marines and sailor who died are informed about its results, said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood.

“This takes time, and we ask you to respect the privacy of these families at this difficult time and remain patient while they are presented with the information,” Wood said.

A total of 16 service members were aboard the AAV when it sank. Five were rescued and taken to the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset and two others were hospitalized. 

Of the nine service members who died: One Marine was pronounced dead at the scene and the remains of the others were recovered in August.

Last year’s accident prompted Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to suspend AAV water operations until the Corps’ entire fleet of vehicles had been inspected.

AAVs are notoriously cramped, making it nearly impossible for Marines and sailors inside to move, especially in an emergency situation.

“For the most part, and mainly because of my experience, they are death traps and need to be updated if not completely eradicated from the Marine Corps,” Tagen Schmidt, a Marine veteran who was badly burned when his AAV caught fire, told Business Insider last year.

Featured image: U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, gives opening remarks during a memorial service at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 21, 2020.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck.)

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