Police have identified three men found dead in a car parked outside of a North Carolina gas station as U.S. Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune.
A missing persons report on Sunday at roughly 9 a.m. local time led police to a Speedway convenience store and gas station in Hampstead, North Carolina — where they discovered three deceased males inside a parked Lexus sedan. The missing person’s report came from a mother who told police that her son, a Marine, had not arrived on his scheduled flight to Oklahoma the night prior.
“He never showed up and they pinged his phone to a gas station in Hampstead,” the mother reportedly said on the phone call with police.
A Marine was also sent to check out the location of the cell phone around the same time that police were dispatched to the scene, and called 911 around 30 minutes after the Marine’s mother did.
“I was looking for these Marines,” he reportedly said on the phone call. “I’m on duty right now and I found these Marines in their car and — think all of them, I think they’re dead. One is bleeding from the nose. They are passed out. They look like they fell asleep in here, but there is no other type of wound.”
An ambulance arrived at the scene minutes later, but the men had already passed away.
The deceased have been identified as Marine Corps Lance Corporal Tanner J. Kaltenberg, 19, from Madison, Wisconsin; Marine Corps Lance Corporal Merax C. Dockery, 23, from Pottawatomie, Oklahoma; and Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ivan R. Garcia, 23, from Naples, Florida.
Autopsies have since determined that the Marines died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a statement from the Pender County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.
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“I am saddened by the timeless and tragic death of these three young men, who served our country honorably. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and colleagues during this time,” Sheriff Alan Cutler wrote in the statement.
Brig. Gen. Michael E. McWilliams, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, released a statement about the tragic deaths.
“My deepest sympathy and condolences are extended to the family, friends, and colleagues of Lance Cpl. Kaltenberg, Lance Cpl. Dockery and Lance Cpl. Garcia,” the statement read. “Our focus is providing the necessary resources and support to those impacted by their tragic loss as they navigate this extremely difficult time.”
Heather Dockery, mother of Lance Corporal Dockery and the woman whose phone call led to the discovery of the deceased Marines, said in a statement to the New York Times that her son had been a “great kid” and she was very proud of him.