A Marine killed in a training accident at Camp Pendleton on Thursday morning was named as 1st Lieutenant Hugh Conor McDowell from Washington, D.C.
The 24-year-old platoon commander was crushed when a light armored vehicle overturned during a battalion training exercise at the sprawling military base in southern California.
He died en route to hospital.
Six other Marines from the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, were taken to hospital but were not seriously hurt.
Lt. McDowell’s father, Michael McDowell, called his son a ‘leader’ and a ‘warrior’ in a moving tribute on Facebook.
‘There is a massive hole in our hearts and there will be for the rest of our lives. He was our only beloved child.’
‘Conor, since he was a small boy, wanted to be a soldier, and later, a Marine. He excelled. He read broadly and was intellectually curious, and was physically outstanding,’ Mr McDowell said.
The grieving father also wrote that his son ‘was due to announce his engagement and marriage to the love of his life, Kathleen Bourque’.
Ms Bourque said on social media that her boyfriend ‘died an American hero’.
‘He was so strong, mentally and physically capable, but he was also so incredibly tender and he took everyone under his wing,’ Ms Bourque told Fox 5 DC.
The family is demanding a thorough probe into the cause of the ‘bizarre’ accident.
‘Did he die pointlessly, did someone make a mistake, was the equipment faulty? I will not be satisfied unless it is a very rigorous investigation,’ Mr McDowell told NBC4.
The military is investigating what caused the 13-ton light armored tank to roll over. The LAV-25 vehicle is used for reconnaissance both on land and underwater.
‘We recognize that military operations are inherently dangerous and we take extreme precautions to ensure the safety and welfare of our Marines,’ a Marine Corps release said.
‘This is a tragic accident and we are heartbroken at the loss of a member of our Marine Corps family.’
Tributes poured in online after news of Lt. McDowell’s death was made public.
‘Driven, sincere, unique, honorable, funny… You’re one of the good ones,’ said one Facebook post.
Lt. McDowell joined the Marine Corps in May 2017 after graduating from prestigious The Citadel military college in Charleston, South Carolina.
He completed his Light Armored Reconnaissance course in March and had only recently picked up his platoon.
His awards included the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
The platoon commander lived near Camp Pendleton in San Diego with his girlfriend and their two cats and a dog.
Lt. McDowell’s death was the second at the military base in a rollover-related accident in recent weeks.
In April Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, 29, from California, died when an all-terrain tactical utility vehicle flipped over.
Camp Pendleton is the Marine Corps’ largest West Coast expeditionary training facility and one of the Defense Department’s busiest installations.