Pendleton Fire Started When Marine Amphibious Vehicle Hit Gas Line, Official Says

news
An Assault Amphibious Vehicle belonging to India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, sits surfside at Freshwater Beach during water recovery training as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 17, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, July 22, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps photo

The armored amphibious vehicle that caught fire on Camp Pendleton Wednesday morning, sending 14 Marines and a Navy corpsman to area hospitals for serious burn injuries, struck a natural gas line during routine pre-deployment training.


Although San Diego Gas & Electric Co. supplies natural gas to the sprawling North County base, the utility said it was not an SDG&E; line that ignited.

“We are aware of a gas incident that occurred on Camp Pendleton on Wednesday. We investigated and determined that an SDG&E; gas line was not involved,” said Sempra Energy spokesman Joe Britton.

An AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle with 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion waits as Marines scout ahead during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 19, 2014.U.S. Marine Corps photo

The brass at 1st Marine Division remained tight-lipped about the blaze that engulfed the Assault Amphibious Vehicle — called an “Amtrack” by the troops — around 9:33 a.m. Wednesday in the San Mateo section of the base.

Crewed by members of the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, it was carrying a detachment from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during the land-based portion of a pre-deployment Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation when the vehicle struck a gas line that was away from the main roadway.

In a Camp Pendleton utility guide published on Aug. 16, 2016, the Marine Corps mandated numerous safety measures for natural gas pipelines latticing the base.

All aboveground pipes and components are required to be primed and painted yellow — which identifies natural gas — and labeled. All new lines located in vegetated areas or located away from paved areas require special markers indicating the presence of natural gas. Markers are mandated on or near all taps, tees and caps continuously along natural gas lines so that Marines can see them from afar, too.

Marine Corps officials at both the Pentagon and Camp Pendleton declined to say whether maps showing known gas lines were provided to the troops planning or conducting the exercise; whether ditches and other areas that held the pipes were marked as out of bounds for vehicle traffic during the training event or whether the unit had been briefed about potential safety risks posed by nearby natural gas lines before they kicked off the exercise.

The San Diego Union-Tribune could not determine if base officials even knew that a natural gas line was there or were aware who installed it.

Officials also declined to say whether the Marines were wearing their flame-resistant organizational gear or FROG, designed to prevent very serious burn injuries.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV), prepare to move from shore to water aboard AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicles at Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 22, 2017.U.S. Marine Corps photo

FROG comes in both desert and olive color scheme and consists of a long-sleeved tunic or T-shirt, trousers, gloves and a balaclava for the face and head. There’s a hinged face guard that can attach to a Kevlar helmet.

Tougher than steel, the Kevlar plastic used in the head gear and the Small Arms Protective Insert on a Marine’s vest and back — the “SAPI plates” — resists both blunt force trauma and high heat. FROG gear is supposed to protect the body from flames where the Kevlar ends.

When units deploy overseas, the Marine Corps swaps out their FROG kit with the Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble, an upgraded flame-resistant material and self-extinguishes fire, drastically reducing the incidence and severity of burn injuries, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.

The level of FROG or EFRCE apparel worn by infantrymen and armor crewman usually is determined by a unit commander, an order that is issued before the training begins.

When contacted by The San Diego Union-Tribune, however, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines personnel referred all questions to division spokesperson 1st Lt. Paul Gainey.

“The accident is under investigation and we will make no comments until it is completed,” Gainey said.

Marine representatives at the Pentagon also declined comment.

Six of the service members taken to area hospitals were listed in critical conditions and another six were marked serious. One was in stable condition.

Eight of the 15 troops were rushed to the burn center at the University of California San Diego medical center. Another four went to the University of California Irvine medical center in Orange County. One was transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

Two others were treated for minor injuries at Camp Pendleton, but Marine officials declined to say whether any had been released

UC Irvine Medical Center has Orange County’s only Level I trauma center and only regional burn center. One of only five American Burn Association-verified centers in Southern California, it treats about 300 adult and pediatric burn survivors annually.

In 2009, the Burn Center at the University of California San Diego medical center also was certified by the American Burn Association. It treats about 450 burn victims each year.

Since Camp Pendleton is equidistant from both Irvine and San Diego, it made sense to split the majority of patients between hospitals, said UC Irvine Health spokesman John Murray.

———

©2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

Read More Show Less