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Navy refuses to release casualty reports after Marines die of carbon monoxide poisoning

U.S. Marines. (Giancarlo Mollicone/Marine Corps Air Station Miramar)
August 03, 2023

The U.S. Navy is refusing to release the casualty reports of three Marines who recently died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in a parked car, despite a Freedom of Information Act request.

Investigative reporter Seth Harp filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Navy in order to obtain copies of the three casualty reports of the Marines who recently were discovered dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a parked car at a Speedway gas station.

The three Lance Corporals from Camp Lejeune, Lance Cpl. Tanner J. Kaltenberg, Lance Cpl. Merax C. Dockery, and Lance Cpl. Ivan R. Garcia, were found dead in their vehicle after a search was conducted as a result of a family member who alerted local deputies that one of the Marines had not arrived home in Oklahoma after a planned flight.

While the cause of the three Marines’ death was reported as carbon monoxide poisoning, the Navy refused to provide Harp with copies of the casualty reports.

“We initiated a search of the files maintained by the Manpower & Reserve Affairs Casualty Branch, who identified responsive records,” the Navy said in an email to Harp. “However, because this matter is still pending, we must withhold them at this time to avoid a premature release hampering that effort.”

In their response to Harp, the Navy noted that its decision was based on a Freedom of Information Act exemption that “provides for the withholding of records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes when their disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings.”

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The Navy also stated that the Freedom of Information Act allows an exemption that prohibits the disclosure of “personal information” if “an individual’s privacy interest” in the matter “outweighs any public interest.”

As part of the Navy’s email to Harp, the Navy explained that the investigative reporter could submit an appeal to the Department of the Navy Office of the Judge Advocate General.

“The US Navy won’t release the casualty reports of the three marines who somehow died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a car parked outdoors,” Harp tweeted in response to the Navy’s refusal to provide the requested information. “There’s more to this story, but they’re going to keep a lid on it for as long as possible.”