MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (April 29, 2010) --
Two Cherry Point Marines were killed late Friday night after the sport utility vehicle they were passengers in landed overturned in a canal. The crash occurred on Catfish Lake Road, 13 miles from Maysville.
First Sgt. B.L. Johnson, of the North Carolina Highway Patrol district office in Kinston, said the driver of the 2004 Jeep Cherokee, Sgt. Mark Lawson, said he lost control of the Jeep, ran off the road on the left and collided with a bulkhead tile on the edge of the canal.
Two passengers, Sgt. Brandon Allen, 22, and Cpl. Elliott Teisler, 21, drowned, Johnson said.
The three Marines were assigned to Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, which is part of the Marine Air Control Group 28.
Johnson said the case would be reviewed by the district attorney’s office in Jacksonville.
Johnson said speed was a contributing factor in the case.
A recent mandate by the military prohibits Marines from using Catfish Lake Road as a cut-through between Jacksonville and Cherry Point, but it may not apply in this case if the Marines were using the road for recreation.
The II Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations East joint order, 5100.3, was signed into policy March 19. The order is punitive in nature, and service members found in violation are punishable under Article 92 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
According to the order, use of Catfish Lake Road, located between U.S. Highway 70 in Craven County and North Carolina Highway 58 in Jones County, has been limited in an effort to reduce the potential for vehicle-related fatalities, injuries and property damage.
Under the limited-use policy, traversing the road is in violation of the order unless the service member has a legitimate purpose to be on the road’s unpaved surface, such as hunting or fishing in that area of the forest.
The new order is applicable to all active duty service members attached to MCIEAST and II MEF, whether they are on duty, leave or liberty.
“You could be the greatest driver in the world, but it just takes one second and you could lose your life,” said Cpl. Darien J. Garland, a Cherry Point weather forecaster, who suffered injuries in an accident on Catfish Lake Road in January.
“Since November 2009, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron aboard Cherry Point has had two accidents due to poor driving on these back roads,” said Lt. Col. Michael J. Murphy, director of safety and standardization for the air station.
The risk of vehicle mishaps along Catfish Lake Road are significantly higher because of the curves, blind spots, lack of posted speed limits and absence of roadway lighting at night, according to the new order.
“First off, if at all possible, avoid back roads,” said Murphy. “If you do go down these roads, drive slow and stay alert. Even when the weather has been dry and the roads are clear, you can get into accidents. Drivers that pass you kick up dust or drive too close and can push you into the loose shoulder.”
“The death of a Marine is not just a tragedy for families,” said Lt. Col. Glenn C. Vogel, commanding officer of H&HS. “To his co-workers, it’s a loss of a comrade we can relate to. It is a tremendous loss for the section, platoon, unit and the Marine Corps. It’s unnecessary and almost always avoidable. It is hard to comprehend when a young Marine or Sailor dies, in the prime of his life, because of an accident.”
Editor’s Note: Portions of this report are courtesy of the New Bern Sun Journal article by Francine Sawyer.