NEAR SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) — Families, neighbors and friends are heartbroken and shocked after a deadly training accident took the lives of one sailor and seven Marines, including three from Southern California.
The following eight service members are currently presumed dead as officials called off a rescue search.
- Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, Calif.
- Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, Calif.
- Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, Calif.
- U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, Calif.
- Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wis.
- Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Ore.
- Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, TX.
- Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Ore.
On the evening of July 30, 15 Marines and a sailor were inside an amphibious assault vehicle as part of a routine training exercise when it began to take on water and eventually sank into water hundreds of feet deep.
Lance Cpl. Marco “Andy” Barranco, 21, of Montebello, Calif.
“I wanted to rush out there and go looking for myself. That’s what I felt like, I have to go find him, I have to do something,” said Barranco’s mother Lupita Garcia said.
The military ended the search effort after 40 hours and Garcia was notified that her son, who was considered missing, is now presumed dead.
As Garcia grieves, she also wants to let everyone know her son was living out his childhood dreams.
“He wanted to be a soldier since he was very young,” she said. “He always said Marines and that’s what his mind was set on, even though he was so young, 10 years old.”
Garcia said her son was inspired to serve his country because of the opportunities it gave his immigrant parents and family.
“He was very grateful. He wanted to be part of this great nation and he wanted to protect it and I know he would do it again,” Garcia said.
“Marco (known by Andy to everyone), was a kind-heart person with a lot of love to share. Andy was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, then later moved to Montebello, CA and went to High School there. Andy loved his family, loved his parents, loved his neighbors and everyone around him, always willing to help, lend a hand or ear,” loved ones said in a GoFundMe to help the family with funeral services.
Barranco’s parents said after his military career, he wanted to continue his life of service in law enforcement.
“I’m so proud of you, you are the best son I could ask for. My heart goes out to all those families because it’s not just my son,” she said.
Barraco leaves behind two sisters, a niece and an unborn nephew, and both of his parents.
Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, Calif.
At the Corona home of Bryan Baltierra, the family was also heartbroken over the sudden loss of the 18-year-old Marine.
Baltierra died one year after being sworn into the Marine Corps, with his mother sharing in a statement, “My one and only son, who radiated positivity and expressed his wonderful smile to everyone he met.”
His family recently held an impromptu memorial in their driveway, where they were supported by neighbors experiencing this loss as well.
“The whole community came together and was with them every step of the way and I’m very sorry for the family,” said neighbor John Bohen.
A delivery person making stops in the neighborhood also shared in the grief.
“Oh he’s too young, gone too soon,” said Yolanda Damas.
A GoFundMe for Baltierra raised nearly $4,000 as of Monday evening.
He leaves behind his mother, father, two older sisters and one younger sister.
Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, Calif.
The same agony is also felt in Riverside at the home of Corporal Cesar Villanueva, a newlywed who tied the knot nearly a month ago.
The family said Villanueva had an infectious smile that beamed even brighter when he was around his wife.
The community will have a chance to pay their respects to Lance Cpl. Barranco at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, when a candlelight vigil to honor him will be held in front of his home on North 2nd Street off Madison Avenue in Montebello.
Funeral services and other memorials opened up to the community for the other victims in the training accident have not yet been announced.