The seven Marines and one Navy sailor went missing Thursday when an amphibious assault vehicle sank in hundreds of feet of water during a training exercise.
“It is with a heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Col. Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said on Twitter. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”
“All eight missing service members are presumed deceased,” the unit said in another post on Sunday. “Efforts will now turn to search and recovery.”
The missing soldiers were among 16 on the amphibious craft when it began taking on water during the exercise. Three of the rescued service members were plucked from the craft and rushed to area hospitals, where one died. The two others were listed in critical condition.
It was unknown what caused the mishap. The names of the missing Marines and sailor have not been released.
The Coast Guard, Marine Corps and US Navy searched 1,000 square nautical miles of ocean in their search for the missing soldiers, USA Today said.
Authorities said the 26-ton military vehicle is lying hundreds of feet below the surface, complicating attempts to retrieve it. The vessel was returning to base when the accident occurred.