West Virginian Among One of Two Marines Killed in Truck Accident

Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke, 19, left, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle, 18, of Kingwood, West Virginia were killed Wed., January 19, near Camp LeJeune when the Marine tactical vehicle they were riding in rolled onto its side. The two graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in May 2021. Photo courtesy of USMC.

By John Clise

The US Defense Department, yesterday, released the names of two Marines killed Jan. 19, when the medium tactical vehicle, commonly known as a 7-ton, they were riding in overturned near North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune at the intersection of US 17 and Highway 210, according to reports.

Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gierke, 19, of Lawrenceville, Georgia; and Pfc. Zachary W. Riffle, 18, of Kingwood, West Virginia, were killed in Wednesday’s crash, according to reports. Both men were members of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Both men were reported deceased at the scene, according to reports.

Seventeen other service members were injured in the crash when they were thrown from the vehicle, according to reports. Two of the Marines were airlifted to a medical center in Wilmington and were listed in critical condition after the crash, but are now in stable condition, the Marine Corps said. All other injured Marines have been discharged from medical care and have returned to their parent commands.

The driver, also a Marine, Louis Barrera, 19, of Springfield, Tennessee, is facing charges of exceeding safe speed and two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

According to reports, Barrera, was trying to make a right turn at the intersection when the vehicle overturned into a median, throwing 17 passengers out of the vehicle, according to police reports.

 Lance Corporal Gierke was a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.  Gierke entered active-duty service in March 2021. His previous duty assignments include 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, North Carolina. Gierke’s military awards include the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism Service Medals. His military schools include Marine Corps Recruit Training; Marine Combat Training; and Basic Landing Support Specialist Course.

Gierke was a 2020 graduate of Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he was a Junior ROTC member and is the son of a Navy veteran.

Pfc. Riffle was a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Pfc. Riffle entered active-duty service in March 2021. His previous duty assignments include 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, North Carolina. Pfc. Riffle’s military awards include the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism Service Medals. His military schools include Marine Corps Recruit Training; Marine Combat Training; and Basic Landing Support Specialist Course.

Riffle was a 2021 graduate of Kingwood High School, in Preston County, WV, and his family owns a plant business in Morgantown, WV.

“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,” said Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III, commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “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.”

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