Retired 'Marine's Marine' Mourned After Fatal Crash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A retired Marine general who lived here was killed in Del Mar earlier this week when he was hit by a pickup truck while standing next to his own disabled vehicle on a rainy stretch of northbound Interstate 5, authorities said.

Retired Brig. Gen. Peter J. Rowe, 57, was heading toward Orange County at 9:59 p.m. Monday when his 1993 Acura Vigor apparently lost traction on the slick roadway and spun into the center divider, according to the California Highway Patrol.

At one time, Rowe had been commanding general of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, a mix of reservists and regulars from Camp Pendleton that went ashore in Saudi Arabia in February 1991 to join other forces in striking Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait.

"He was a Marine's Marine," said retired Brig. Gen. Mike Neil, who had known Rowe for 20 years. "He was one of those men you liked instantly the second you met him. He had a twinkle in his eye, an energy about him and a directness in his approach that really drew people to him. When you were around him, you knew he was a leader you could trust. He exuded confidence. He was a good man, good friend, good Marine."

A memorial Mass will be at 8:30 a.m. today at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Chapel in San Diego, followed by internment at 10:30 a.m. at Ft. Rosecrans, near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. A reception is planned at the Naval Training Center Officer's Club after the services.

Neil said fellow Marines were stunned by the death of Rowe, who was traveling alone Monday night when the accident occurred. Part of their difficulty in coping with it, he said, was its peculiar irony--a tough Marine who had been involved in dozens of life-threatening situations was killed on I-5, in a rainstorm.

"I saw him sail off to the Persian Gulf War," said Neil, who at the time was the commanding general at Camp Pendleton. "He sailed out of San Diego with his 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which was the largest sailing of Marine forces on board ship since the Korean War."

After striking the concrete median shortly before 10 p.m. Monday, Rowe's Acura came to a stop facing west across the fast lanes of northbound I-5, just south of the Via de la Valle exit, officials said, noting that he had gotten out of the vehicle and was standing near the driver-side door when the second vehicle became involved in the crash.

A Ford F-100 pickup truck, driven by Antonio Garcia, 42, of Huntington Beach, struck the left side of Rowe's vehicle, investigators said.

Rowe suffered massive injuries to his head, torso and legs and was thrown into the median.

He died at the scene, according to both the CHP and the San Diego County Medical Examiner.

A 27-year-old passenger in the pickup truck suffered minor injuries in the collision and was not hospitalized. No other injuries were reported.

Garcia was neither arrested nor cited in connection with the accident, officials said.

A native of Stamford, Conn., Rowe was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in June 1961. He served in Vietnam, seeing action in Hue City, Khe Sanh and An Hoa.

In May 1991, Rowe also led Marine forces in Operation Sea Angel, a Bangladesh humanitarian relief effort.

He retired from the Marines in September 1992.

He also served as commanding general of the Landing Force Training Command Pacific, which was based at North Island Naval Air Station near Coronado.

Rowe is survived by his parents, two sons and one daughter.

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