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Lawsuit Alleges Fatal Marine AAV Accident Was Caused by Critical Design Flaws

April 21, 2021

CALIFORNIA - A lawsuit filed by the families of the nine fallen Marines blames the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) vehicle's manufacturer for "documented mechanical issues" leading to the tragedy that could have been preventable.  The U.S. Marine Corps' command investigation showed a "combination of human and mechanical errors" is what caused the fatal sinking of an AAV off of the San Clemente Island.  The incident tragically killed a Navy sailor and eight Marines.  The Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) released the incident report involving the fatal accident last July.

The plaintiff's attorney stated that her own law firm's independent investigation of the tragedy discovered a different cause for the accident that does not cast blame on the AVV crewmembers.  The plaintiff's attorney stated the Marine Corp is not placing enough culpability on the AVV's manufacturer, BAE Systems.  According to Attorney Donna, this model of AAV has a history of design flaws, and the vehicles are prone to mechanical failures.  Attorney Donna also stated that the tragedy really wasn't an accident because it was known for years that an accident killing servicemen and women would eventually happen. 

According to the United States Marine Corps officials, the sunken AAV was part of a training mission held on the San Clemente Island.  The first signs of mechanical troubles appeared as the AVV crews were preparing to leave San Clemente Island and return to the USS Somerset.  The report states that one of the AAVs sustained a mechanical failure which resulted in a five-hour delay. The AAV lost transmission fluid as it entered the water.  As the AAV reached San Clemente Island, the AVV's transmission was overheating, smoking, and empty of transmission fluid.  The AVV crew members were 17 gallons short on transmission fluid.  However, they were ordered to go back into the water.  The AVV then began to take on water, and the vehicle's bilge pumps couldn't pump out the water fast enough due to the transmission issue.  Finally, the AVV began to sink and tragically killed nine servicemembers. 

As the AVV's crew members attempted to evacuate the AVV, however, the  lawsuit alleges that the AVV's hatch has another "critical design flaw."  The vehicle's top hatch allowed a large swell of water to enter the vehicle, and the AVV began to sink rapidly with the service members on board.  According to the report, the AVV manufacturer has been aware of the top hatch issues. 

The 26-ton AAV sank to the bottom of the ocean at a depth of around 400 feet.  Several high-ranking officers were relieved of duty due to the fatal accident.  However, the plaintiff's attorney believes BAE Systems needs to share some of the responsibility for not recalling the vehicles.  The families are considering a separate civil lawsuit against BAE Systems.

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Category: Personal Injury

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