Marines from Georgia, West Virginia identified as fatalities in NC crash

Two Marines killed in a military rollover crash in North Carolina have been identified, officials said Friday.

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Lance Corporal Jonathan E. Gierke, 19, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Private First Class Zachary W. Riffle, 18, of Kingwood, West Virginia, were both killed in Wednesday’s crash, WRAL-TV reported.

According to North Carolina State Highway Patrol Sgt. Devin Rich, the 7-ton military vehicle was making a right turn when it lost control, overturned and ejected the 19 soldiers who were in the back of the truck onto the road.

Louis Barrera, 19, of Springfield, Tennessee, the driver of the vehicle, was charged with one count of exceeding a safe speed and two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, WCTI-TV reported.

According to a news release, 15 soldiers were transported to Camp Lejeune’s Naval Medical Center and were listed in stable condition. Two soldiers airlifted to a hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina, were originally listed in critical condition and are now stable, WRAL reported.

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“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 at Camp Lejeune, said in a statement. “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 and Riffle began serving in the Marines in March 2021 and had received National Defense and Global War on Terrorism Service medals, WRAL reported.

Gierke’s previous duty assignments included Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina; School of Infantry-East in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools in Camp Lejeune, WPDE-TV reported. Gierke was a 2020 graduate of Collins Hill High School near Suwanee, according to Gwinnett County Public Schools records.

Riffle’s previous duty assignments included Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina; School of Infantry-East in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools in Camp Lejeune, the television station reported.