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3 Marines found at N.C. gas station died of carbon monoxide poisoning, officials say

Signage stands on the main gate to Camp Lejeune Marine Base outside Jacksonville, N.C., Friday, April 29, 2022.
Allen G. Breed
Signage stands on the main gate to Camp Lejeune Marine Base outside Jacksonville, N.C., Friday, April 29, 2022.

Updated July 26, 2023 at 4:20 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. — Three U.S. Marines found unresponsive in a car at a North Carolina gas station died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the local sheriff's office said Wednesday.

Deputies from the Pender County Sheriff's Office found the three men Sunday morning in a privately owned car parked outside a Speedway gas station in Hampstead. Autopsies performed Wednesday by the North Carolina Medical Examiner determined that all three deaths were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the sheriff's office.

The Pender County Sheriff's Office did not immediately make clear whether their deaths were accidental.

"I am saddened by the timeless and tragic death of these three young men, who served our country honorably," Sheriff Alan Cutler said. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and colleagues during this time."

The lance corporals, identified by the U.S. Marine Corps as Tanner J. Kaltenberg, 19, of Madison, Wisconsin, Merax C. Dockery, 23, of Pottawatomie, Oklahoma, and Ivan R. Garcia, 23, of Naples, Florida, were stationed at nearby Camp Lejeune, 29 miles (47 kilometers) northeast of the gas station. They were motor vehicle operators with the Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Combat Logistics Regiment 2 and 2nd Marine Logistics Group.

Sgt. Chester Ward of the Pender County Sheriff's Office said the department had received a missing person report early Sunday morning from the mother of one of the Marines after her son failed to arrive on a flight home the night prior.

Dockery's mother, Heather Glass of Maud, Oklahoma, said Wednesday that she and another relative had driven to the Oklahoma City airport last Saturday evening to wait for her son to fly home for his grandfather's funeral.

When he didn't arrive, Glass' daughter started calling North Carolina hospitals and jails while Glass contacted the sheriff's office and her son's sergeant at Camp Lejeune, resulting in a search.

Glass said she assumed that her son died from something like carbon monoxide because all three of the young Marines had died, and the sheriff's office had not suspected foul play. Breathing too much carbon monoxide makes victims pass out.

"I was just worried that it was something worse," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"I'm at peace. I feel at peace because I know he was asleep when he passed," Glass said.

Dockery was the youngest of five siblings — the rest of them older sisters — and grew up in nearby Seminole. Glass said her son joined the Marines "for personal growth" and so that he could travel, with the possibility of making the military a career.

Glass said funeral arrangements were being assembled, with dates based on where her son's body can be released to the family.

"He was just a kind soul," Glass said. "He was liked by everybody. He was a real good kid."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]