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3 Marines die near Camp Lejeune, likely from carbon monoxide poisoning
Screenshot of FOX Carolina News YouTube video (From left to right: Lance Cpl. Tanner J. Kaltenberg, Lance Cpl. Merax C. Dockery, and Lance Cpl. Ivan R. Garcia)

3 Marines die near Camp Lejeune, likely from carbon monoxide poisoning

Three young lance corporals with the United States Marine Corps passed away last weekend at a service station in North Carolina. Now a preliminary autopsy report indicates that they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, Tanner J. Kaltenberg, 19, Merax Dockery, 23, and Ivan Garcia, 23, were discovered unresponsive inside a privately owned vehicle parked at a Speedway convenience store in Hampstead, North Carolina, about 30 miles southwest of Camp Lejeune, where they were stationed. They were all determined to be deceased at the scene.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released a preliminary autopsy report that indicated that the young men had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sgt. Chester Ward, a spokesperson with the Pender County Sheriff's Office, said that investigators do not yet know whether the vehicle in which they had been found had been experiencing any problems, though all three men had been motor vehicle operators in various Corps divisions.

AUTOPSY: 3 Marines based in NC died from carbon monoxide poisoningwww.youtube.com

Ward also stated that deputies had not yet determined how long the vehicle had been parked outside the convenience store. However, Heather Glass, Dockery's mother, had contacted her son's supervisor around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning because Dockery had not arrived on his scheduled flight into Oklahoma the night before to attend his grandfather's funeral.

Glass indicated that she directed the supervisor to the gas station after her son's cellphone pinged at that location, though the time that it pinged there is unclear. The supervisor then dispatched someone to search the area.

Glass, though devastated by the loss of her son, also draws some solace from the manner of his death. "I feel at peace because I know he was asleep when he passed," she said.

Dockery grew up in Seminole, Oklahoma, and became active duty in the Marines three years ago. His mother said he initially joined the Marines "for personal growth" and for the chance to travel, but he later considered making it a career.

"My favorite picture of Merax... I will forever love you son," Glass wrote in a Facebook post.

Lance Cpl. Kaltenberg originally hailed from Verona, Wisconsin, southwest of Madison, and entered active duty in May 2021. In his short time as a Marine, he had already received the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Medal, the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon, and the Global War on Terror Service Medal.

"Our whole world is flipped upside down right now," Kaltenberg's sister, Brianna Windisch, posted on Facebook. "I miss you fiercely bro… it's never goodbye, it's see you later. I love you so much."

Lance Cpl. Garcia of Naples, Florida, had served the longest, entering active duty in July 2019 shortly after graduating high school. He, too, had already received several military awards, including the National Defense Service Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, and Global War on Terror Service Medal.

"Now who will I fight with? Who will I scold?" Garcia's aunt Rosely Garcia wrote in Spanish on Facebook. "Today I cant believe he is not here, oh my god, how painful my beautiful boy, why did you leave me."

Reports indicate that the investigation into the deaths is ongoing, but the sheriff's office does not suspect foul play. Deputies also insisted that there is no remaining threat to the community in connection with the incident.

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

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