Vehicle accident kills Marine; SUV, 7-ton collide;

9 Dec 2002 | Staff Sgt. Jason Huffine

A Marine died here last week after his vehicle hit a 7-ton tactical truck carrying small-arms ammunition head-on.

James Gill, 30, crossed the yellow-line Friday in his privately owned Ford Explorer on Marines Road while trying to pass another automobile. The Provost Marshal's Office pronounced him dead at the scene.

According to PMO officials, both the 7-ton driver and "A"-driver with the School of Infantry were wearing their seatbelts and were not injured.

Captain Sidney Parks, PMO operations officer, said the 7-ton and trailer it pulled rolled into a ditch spilling ammunition onto the road. None of the ammunition detonated on impact. An explosive ordinance disposal team responded immediately.

Gill, a sergeant and landing support specialist with Combat Service Support Detachment-24 here, joined the Marine Corps in December 1998.

This incident marks the third vehicle fatality in the last two weeks involving Marines stationed here. On Nov. 23, Lance Cpl. Meseret Debru, 22, of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, died in Bladen County, N.C., after the vehicle he drove collided with a sport utility vehicle. And on Dec. 1, Cpl. Mustafa Byrd, 21, of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, died outside Rocky Mount, N.C. Byrd lost control of his vehicle traveling south on Interstate 95. Officials on scene said he tried to pass another vehicle at a high rate of speed, and lost control. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

II Marine Expeditionary Force's Lt. Col. Richard Russell is concerned with this series of mishaps. The safety director said there has been five vehicle related fatalities already this fiscal year for II MEF. He explained that at this pace the unit, which includes 2nd Marine Division and 2nd Force Service Support Group, would exceed FY-02's deaths by five. The MEF lost 22 Marines last year.

Marine Corps Base Safety Manager Jordan Pickett believes the Marines here have a long way to go when it comes to vehicle safety.

"We have not won the battle," he said referring to the incident. "We are still losing Marines to senseless motor vehicle accidents. We must be ever vigilant in this cause."

Although strong with opinion on the lost battle, Pickett said the commanders here should be applauded for their increased understanding and teaching on operational risk management. He said the commanders have pushed risk assessment, but its up to the Marines and sailors to carry it out.

Gill, who was from Wichita, Kan., is survived by his father, James of Burleson, Texas; mother, Marcia of Wichita; wife, Jessica and 6-year-old daughter Selena, also of Wichita.

Gill was wearing his seatbelt. Both PMO and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service here are examining the incident.