Three Marines were found dead on Sunday inside a car parked at a gas station in Hampstead, N.C., the authorities said, prompting an investigation into the causes of their deaths after no weapons, illegal drugs or evidence of an attack were found.
The authorities were still determining on Tuesday night where the Marines had been going and whether carbon monoxide poisoning might have played a role in the deaths. Autopsy results were expected to be released by Wednesday evening.
“It seemed like it was more like an accidental death,” Sgt. Chester Ward of the Pender County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday.
The Marines, who were motor vehicle operators stationed at the military base Camp Lejeune, did not appear to have died by suicide, the sergeant said.
The Second Marine Logistics Group identified the three Marine lance corporals who died as Tanner J. Kaltenberg, 19, of Madison, Wis.; Merax C. Dockery, 23, of Pottawatomie, Okla.; and Ivan R. Garcia, 23, of Naples, Fla.
The sheriff’s office said on Facebook that deputies had responded around 9 a.m. Sunday to a report of a missing person before eventually finding the three men dead inside a Lexus sedan parked by a Speedway convenience store in Hampstead, about an hour’s drive from Camp Lejeune.
“There does not appear to have ever been any threat to members of the community,” the sheriff’s office said.
Heather Dockery, Lance Corporal Dockery’s mother, said in a brief phone interview on Tuesday that her son “was a great kid, and I’m very proud of him.”
Brig. Gen. Michael E. McWilliams, the commanding general of the Second Marine Logistics Group, said in a statement that his “deepest sympathy and condolences are extended to the family, friends, and colleagues” of the victims.
“Our focus is providing the necessary resources and support to those impacted by their tragic loss as they navigate this extremely difficult time,” General McWilliams said.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.