Two Marines are dead and 17 more are injured after the tactical vehicle they were driving rolled over Wednesday in Jacksonville, N.C., the service announced late in the evening.
The Marine Corps said the deceased were pronounced dead at the scene while two Marines were transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., where they were in critical condition. The remaining 15 Marines were taken to the Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where they were listed in stable condition.
The Marines were driving a medium tactical vehicle replacement (MTVR) – often called a “7-ton” – when it rolled near the intersection of North Carolina Highway 210 and U.S. Highway 17.
The driver of the vehicle, a 19-year-old Marine, was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and exceeding a safe speed, according to NBC News.
Sgt. Devin Rich, a spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, told reporters that the vehicle was traveling “a little too fast for the right turn that they were attempting to make.”
2nd Marine Logistics Group said that they were “grateful to all first responders that provided aid to our service members.”
Vehicle rollovers and, more broadly, vehicle accidents outside of combat zones, have claimed the lives of dozens of service members in recent years.
A report from the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released in July 2021, found 123 soldiers and Marines died in 3,753 non-combat tactical vehicle incidents between 2010 and 2019. The report blamed overconfidence, complacency and driver error for tactical vehicle mishaps that largely occurred in relatively safe conditions during the day.
The report found that rollovers were by far the deadliest kind of accident. Despite being responsible for one-quarter of the accidents, they accounted for 63% of the deaths reviewed in the study.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Hilmes, commander of the Army's Combat Readiness Center and director of Army safety, told Military.com in an interview in November that "ground vehicle mishaps are the number one killer of our soldiers."
The annual defense policy bill signed into law last month seeks to reduce vehicle training accidents by requiring the Army and Marine Corps to implement the recommendations of the July GAO report.
The Army and Marine Corps have 180 days from the date the defense bill became law in December to deliver Congress a plan on implementing the recommendations, which included more clearly defined roles for vehicle commanders, procedures to help supervisors enhance tactical vehicle safety, and performance criteria and measurable standards for driver training programs. The services have 18 months to actually implement the changes.
“The serious deficiencies and failures in tactical vehicle training required immediate action,” Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who sponsored the vehicle training safety provision in the defense bill, said in a December statement after it was passed by the House. “The loss of a single American soldier is tragic, and the continued loss of service members in training accidents is completely unacceptable.”
The defense bill also creates a joint council of all the military departments to update safety regulations and calls on the Army to report to Congress on the feasibility of using data recording devices on combat vehicles, similar to black boxes on airplanes.
The Marine Corps said that it is not releasing any of the names of the injured victims, citing privacy regulations, but the names of the deceased will be released 24 hours after notification of next of kin.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.