Marine dies in training accident at Twentynine Palms, 4 others hurt

September 17th, 2013 | by Crystal Chatham | Comments
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is located in Twentynine Palms, about an hour from Palm Springs. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

A Marine died Monday and four others were hurt during a training accident at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, the 1st Marine Division announced in a statement Tuesday.

UPDATE: Nicholas Sell ID’d as Marine killed at Twentynine Palms

The accident happened at 11:20 a.m. on base while the Marines were participating in Integrated Training Exercise (ITX), said Combat Center public affairs officer Capt. Justin Smith.

One of the injured Marines is in stable condition at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. The other three were released after being treated on base at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital.

The accident’s cause is under investigation.

Where these Marines are stationed has not been released.

Thousands of Marines go to the Combat Center annually for ITX, which is a nearly month-long workup to build skills from the personal and squad level up to a battalion-wide final exercise.

It is the latest incarnation of these units’ mandatory pre-deployment training after the mid-2000s Mojave Viper and Enhanced Mojave Viper, which started in 2009.

ITX replaced Enhanced Mojave Viper (EMV) as the Marine Corps’ premiere pre-deployment training program in January.

Monday’s incident marks the second training death this year for the Combat Center and the second death during ITX.

Private First Class Casey J. Holmes died March 11 in a bulldozer mishap during the training program.

The Chico native was based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Before that, on June 20, 2007, a Marine was wounded while undergoing Mojave Viper training at the base.

He was acting as an Iraqi role player in one of two mock towns set up to train every Marine before deployment to Iraq, The Desert Sun reported in 2007.

Years earlier, on Feb. 17, 2002, Capt. James Blackmon Jr., 32, was killed after his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed during a training exercise.

He was with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in Buford, S.C.

According to Naval Safety Center, no other Marines have been killed in ground ashore on-duty mishaps this year since seven Camp Lejune Marines were killed by a mortar explosion March 18.

Seven other Marines and a sailor were also injured during the blast, which happened during live-fire training at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Human error caused the blast, a command investigation concluded.

Desert Sun reporter Colin Atagi contributed to this report.

UPDATE WEDS., SEPT. 18, 2013: A mishap summary was published by Naval Safety Center on Wednesday afternoon.

Cpl. Nicholas Sell of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, died when an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) caught fire.

An AAV is a tracked vehicle that can carry about 25 Marines at a time or haul cargo from a ship to a shore and can continue to maneuver once it reaches land.

Because a vehicle was involved, the mishap is classified as a Class A Operational Tactical Vehicle mishap. The last Marine Corps mishap of this kind that resulted in a fatality also involved Twentynine Palms.

On April 19, Yucca Valley resident Kristin Thrawl, 26, was killed on Highway 62 near Joshua Tree when her vehicle was struck by a Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly called a humvee.

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