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A Sigonella High School junior and a sailor stationed on that Navy base in Sicily were killed Saturday afternoon in a head-on car crash, a Navy official said Tuesday.

Seaman Mark Gipson, 20, and Michael Hancock, 17, were pronounced dead at the scene of the 2:30 p.m. crash, said Navy Lt. Jon Groveman, spokesman for Naval Air Station Sigonella.

Two Italians traveling in another car were injured.

Hancock and Gipson, a master-at-arms and the driver, were on local roadway SS-417, Groveman said. Even though it’s only a two-lane road — one lane in each direction — connecting the two Navy bases, it is considered a major thoroughfare. Groveman did not know what kind of car Gipson was driving.

Hancock was a popular student, a leader among his peers at Sigonella High and involved in a number of extracurricular activities such as Junior ROTC, principal Sonny Bertschinger said.

Gipson, of Gilroy, Calif., joined the Navy in 2006 and worked for the security department at Sigonella. Efforts to find family were unsuccessful.

Both were wearing seat belts, Groveman said.

The cause is under investigation by U.S. and Italian officials.

The injured Italians were recuperating at a local hospital, Groveman said.

While officials don’t know where Gipson and Hancock were going, they had been on NAS I, which houses facilities such as the Navy Exchange, commissary, food court and library, and were on the road that links the base with NAS II, the working base — which is near the Marinai base housing area, Groveman said.

Hancock lived in base housing. Groveman did not know where Gipson lived.

A memorial service will be held for Hancock at 9 a.m. Thursday at the NAS I chapel.

A service will be held there Friday at 2 p.m. for Gipson.

Saturday’s crash marks the first fatal accident in the past three years for the Sigonella community, Groveman said.


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