Desert Sun Editorial
March 29, 2014-Our iSun investigation found that at least 28 Marines based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center died in vehicle crashes. Another five Marines who were visiting the area died in vehicle crashes on desert roads surrounding the base. Those 32 deaths represent 10 percent of all off-duty Marine vehicle deaths in the past seven years, according to the Naval Safety Center.
Why? Possibly because no other Marine base on U.S. soil puts so many service members so far from large population centers. Palm Springs is the closest hub for night life, which means an hourlong drive on. A dozen Marines have died on the road since 2007.
Speed and alcohol have been factors in many of the accidents. In the 28 Marine fatalities since 2007, more than half involved extreme speed. Alcohol was a factor in one-third of the deaths.
We love to see our troops enjoying the hospitality of Palm Springs and other Coachella Valley cities. We relish the chance to thank them for their service. But there ought to be a better way for them to get home safely.
Is Highway 62 safe?
A letter to the editor written in response to our series says that Highway 62 is dangerous for all drivers, not just Marines.
“Day or night, there are speeders, soft or no shoulders, blocked entrances that make it hard to see slow-moving vehicles, crazy construction projects and traffic jams where you least expect them,” wrote Nancy Cobb of Palm Springs.
The stretch between Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms is designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway in honor of the military. Safety improvements along the route could help.
It was disappointing that the base commander, Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, declined to talk to Desert Sun reporters for the series. We’d to like to hear his views on how make life safer for Marines and sailors who visit the Coachella Valley. The door is always open if he is inclined to reach out to us.
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Photo: A wooden cross in memorial to Marine Cpl. Donald D. Fowler III is in the desert just off of Highway 62 east of Twentynine Palms. Fowler, who received the Purple Heart after he survived a suicide bomb blast in Iraq, was killed Feb. 7, 2011, when he lost control of his car along the desolate highway, hit a berm, and then rolled several times. (Photo: Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun )
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