Three North Carolina Marines were found dead in a car with unconnected exhaust pipes, autopsies show

Dec 6, 2023, 12:27 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Three Marines found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a car outside a North Carolina gas station in July were in a vehicle with unconnected and rusted exhaust pipes, according to newly released autopsy findings.

The Pender County Sheriff’s Office had already said months ago that autopsies performed on Camp Lejeune lance corporals Tanner Kaltenberg, Merax Dockery and Ivan Garcia determined that they all had died from such poisoning, which can happen from car exhaust.

The new reports, which said there were no obvious signs of suicide, foul play or drug use, confirmed that cause of death.

But the reports from the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and obtained by news outlets provided additional information on the circumstances surrounding their deaths. The Marines were found dead the morning of July 23 at a convenience store parking lot in Hampstead in the southeastern part of the state. The reports suggested the 2000 Lexus sedan belonging to Garcia was equipped in an unsafe manner.

One of the autopsy reports said the car “had been modified in a way that caused multiple large defects in the exhaust system.” Another report describes that the car had been “lowered” and the exhaust pipes were rusted and not connected.

“It appeared that exhaust from the vehicle would have been released under the passenger cabin and not the rear bumper,” the report reads, adding that the car’s air conditioning also wasn’t working properly.

Car exhaust contains carbon monoxide that can make victims who inhale it pass out and ultimately die. A report said one of the Marines had a 23% concentration of carbon monoxide in the blood.

A Pender County sheriff’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to a phone message seeking information.

Sheriff’s deputies found the young men about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Camp Lejeune, after the mother of one of the Marines reported her son missing.

The car’s windows were tinted and the doors were unlocked, and while the ignition was turned on the car was not running, news outlets reported. Surveillance video from the gas station shows the Marines parked the car and were never seen exiting the vehicle, the medical examiner’s office said.

Kaltenberg, of Madison, Wisconsin, was 19. Both Dockery, of Seminole, Oklahoma, and Garcia, of Naples, Florida, were 23.

United States News

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Three North Carolina Marines were found dead in a car with unconnected exhaust pipes, autopsies show