On the morning of Sunday, July 23, 2023, Pender County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Speedway gas station and convenience store parking lot located at 14477 Highway 17, Hampstead, NC 28443 in response to a missing persons call.
Upon arrival, officers found three deceased individuals in a sedan parked in the Speedway parking lot.
Reports on Tuesday confirmed that the victims, all three of whom were members of the United States Marine Corps, have been identified as:
- Lance Corporal Tanner J. Kaltenberg (19) from Madison, Wisconsin
- Lance Corporal Merax C. Dockery (23) from Pottawatomie, Oklahoma
- Lance Corporal Ivan R. Garcia (23) from Naples, Florida.
The three Marines were all stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Camp Lejune is located 44 miles north of the Hampstead, NC Speedway store which is a 50-minute drive from where the men were found.
On Monday, Pender County Sheriff’s Department Sargeant Chester Ward acknowledged that one of the men located in the vehicle was the subject of the missing person’s call before telling Port City Daily, adding “There’s nothing to believe it to be foul play or anything… …We’re waiting for an autopsy report, but we have an idea of probably what happened.”
On Tuesday, national media outlets began covering the story while local residents have begun suggesting that CO2 poisoning, caused by an idling vehicle may be the cause. Despite these suggestions, autopsy and toxicology reports are not yet completed nor have officials made any additional statements to the media.