Marines in Pacific Banned from Water Activities After Latest Drowning

Marines prepare their diving equipment prior to entering the water on Jan. 22, 2014, at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Brandon Suhr)
Marines prepare their diving equipment prior to entering the water on Jan. 22, 2014, at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Brandon Suhr)

After the third off-duty drowning of a U.S. service member in Okinawa in a month, III Marine Expeditionary Force declared a moratorium on water-related activities until further notice.

The most recent death occurred on Sunday.

According to 2nd Lt. Jacky Chow, a spokeswoman for III MEF and Marine Corps Installations Pacific, a Marine with 3rd Marine Logistics Group was pronounced dead after an apparent drowning accident at Maeda Point in Onna Village within Okinawa's Kunagami district in the mid-afternoon.

The Marine has not been identified, pending notification of family. The news comes just 24 hours after another Marine drowned at the same location at Maeda point. That Marine was assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and has yet to be identified.

Maeda point is billed as the best snorkeling site in Okinawa. Its website contains a warning that guests swim and dive at their own risk.

"III MEF is currently conducting a moratorium on water related activities," Chow said in a statement, "and will conduct a safety stand-down on recreational water safety activities and measures to ensure the well-being of our service members, their families, and the communities with which we interact."

Headquartered at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, III MEF oversees thousands of Marines stationed in Okinawa and Japan, and Hawaii-based Marine Corps units as well.

The first of these tragic drowning deaths happened Oct. 10, when a corpsman assigned to III MEF, Petty Officer 1st Class Jorge NoriegaSuarez, died in an apparent diving accident at Mermaid's Grotto near Cape Manzamo, Okinawa, another popular sport with locals and tourists.

NoriegaSuarez was assigned to 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group and was also an advance X-Ray technician.

His death, like the two most recent ones, remains under investigation by the Marine Corps.

--Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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