Two Marines from Camp Lejeune drowned Sunday in western Iraq after their boat capsized on the Euphrates River, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Lance Cpl. William C. Chambers, 20, of Ringgold, Ga., and Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Tinnel, 20, of Mechanicsville, Va., died in the accident, which is under investigation. Both were assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marine spokesmen didn't immediately respond to questions about what the men were doing in a boat but told the families that the accident was being investigated.
Tinnel's family couldn't be reached Thursday.
Marine officials told Chambers' family that the men's boat overturned about 75 feet from the bank near the town of Albu Hyatt in Anbar province. They were strapped into full battle gear, which would include weapons and ammunition, helmets and body armor, and said that contributed to their deaths.
"The very thing you put on to save your life, it took his," said Chambers' grandmother, Nancy Chambers of Rossville, Ga.
Chambers loved hunting and fishing, any excuse to get outside, she said. He played clarinet in the band at Ringgold High School and had been a member of the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps for four years.
Chambers joined the Marines a few months after graduating in 2006 and wanted to build a career in the Corps. He had talked of becoming a drill instructor, she said.
He shipped out for Iraq in early March and had told his family since then that he didn't care much for it, particularly the heat. He last talked to his parents, Darrell and Kathy Chambers, Saturday night and told them he was speaking while he sat on the bank of the river.
"He was talking to them, and then three hours later, he was gone," said his grandmother.
"He had a heart of gold," she said. "He'd do anything for you, and we were very proud of him."
Chambers' survivors include: his parents, sisters Allison, 17, and Summer, 16; and brother Shane, 17.
(News researcher Becky Ogburn contributed to this report.)