3 Local Marines Killed in Crash

The victims, all described as servicemen in their early 20s, were based at Camp Pendleton

By Lauren Steussy, Olsen Ebright, Vikki Vargas and Yvonne Beltzer
|  Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012  |  Updated 9:34 PM PDT
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3 Local Marines Killed in Crash

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3 Local Marines Killed in Crash

Three Camp Pendleton based Marines were killed and a fourth Marine was injured in a crash near Dana Point Tuesday morning.
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Three Camp Pendleton based Marines were killed and a fourth Marine was injured in a crash near Dana Point Tuesday morning.

The accident happened on Gold Lantern St. at about 2 a.m., according to Orange County Sheriff's Department.

The Marines' car hit a tree at a high speed, authorities said.

The injured Marine was taken to a hospital in Mission Viejo. He is in critical condition, according to a statement from the base.

"We are looking into whether alcohol was a factor," Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said, adding that the unsafe speed and rain-slick road likely contributed to the crash.

The servicemen were all in their early 20s, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone. The names of the victims were not immediately released.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the Marines involved," a spokesperson with Camp Pendleton said.

The force of the impact was evident at the crash scene, where pieces of glass and debris remained embedded in a palm tree.

"I was sound asleep and I heard what sounded like a concussion, a bang, and I wasn't sure if I was dreaming so I opened the blinds and had to check it out," said Tim James who heard the accident.

The two Marines in the back seat of the car were killed instantly, according to paramedics. Rescue workers spent at least 20 minutes using the Jaws of Life to cut the driver and the passenger free from the wreckage.

The passenger made it to the hospital, but he died there.

The driver was taken to a hospital in Mission Viejo. He is in critical condition, according to a statement from the base.

Marine Chris Hilborn, who recently finished his last tour, came by the collision scene to pay his respects. He left a hat with the Marine Corps emblem on it, and said it was not important how the accident happened.

"It doesn't make a difference. Once a Marine, always a Marine. That's what we stand by," he said.

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