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Marine Corps identifies 2 Marines killed in truck rollover in North Carolina

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Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke and Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke (left) and nd Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle (right) were killed in a Jan. 19, 2022 truck rollover in North Carolina.

Marine Corps officials have identified the two Marines who were killed on Wednesday when the 7-ton truck that they were riding in overturned near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke and Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle.

Both Gierke and Riffle were assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group. They were pronounced dead at the scene after their truck overturned at the intersection of North Carolina Highway 210 and U.S. Highway 17 near Jacksonville, North Carolina.

“My sincerest heartfelt condolences are extended to the family, friends, and colleagues of the Marines who lost their lives or were injured in Wednesday’s vehicle mishap,” Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III, commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, said in a news release. “Our commanders, chaplains, and medical providers are diligently supporting our Marines and sailors during this time. We deeply appreciate all of the thoughtful community messages we have received over the past several days.”

Gierke, 19, and Riffle, 18, both began their active-duty service in March 2021, the news release says. They completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina and went on to the School of Infantry-East and Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools at Camp Lejeune. Their awards include the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism Service Medals.

The deadly crash happened about 1:09 p.m. on Wednesday, when the truck overturned into the median of U.S. Highway while the driver was trying to make a right turn, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. All 17 passengers riding in the truck were thrown from the vehicle. One of them was struck by a car that could not stop in time.

Fifteen Marines were hospitalized, including two who were airlifted, a State Highway Patrol news release says.

Investigators believe the truck was going too fast when it made the turn, the news release says. The Marine Corps is also investigating the crash. Lance Cpl. Luis Poncebarrera, 19, who was driving the truck at the time of the crash, has been charged with one count of Exceeding a Safe Speed and two counts of misdemeanor Death by Motor Vehicle, Marine Corps and highway patrol officials said.

Three Marines remain hospitalized following the crash and they are listed in stable condition, according to the Marine Corps. All the other injured Marines have been treated and released.

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