Midshipman Dies After He ‘Fell over’ a Waterfall in Chile

The US Naval Academy has identified a midshipman who died over the weekend as Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, of New Braunfels, Texas, in a statement released Monday.

According to the school, “Bird was in Chile participating in a semester abroad program at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy, which serves as Chile’s Naval Academy.” On Saturday morning, he went hiking near the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, in the Valpara√≠so region of Chile, with a Chilean naval academy student.

“He reportedly lost his footing and fell over the waterfall,” the school’s statement said. A previous statement noted that authorities did not suspect foul play.

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Bird’s body was found a day later by Chilean authorities in a lagoon by the waterfall.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the US Naval Academy superintendent, said in the statement. “My wife, Joanne, and I and the Academy community offer our entire sincere family, Navstal condolences to Luke’s friends, and fellow midship during this difficult time.”

Bird is the second midshipman to die this year. In June, Taylor Connors, 24, passed away “with family at his bedside,” according to the school’s statement on his death. Foul play is not suspected in his case either.

Despite the second death this summer, available figures show that student deaths at the academy fall well under the national average for US college students. The last four known midshipman deaths, including Bird’s, also all happened while students were on leave or off campus.

The last on-campus deaths occurred in 2020. Twenty-two-year-old David Forney was found unresponsive in his dormitory room in February, and Duke Carrillo, 21, died while taking the semiannual physical readiness test. Later reporting revealed both students died of heart issues.

One of Bird’s friends, Midshipman Travis Delgado, described him as “an unfathomably smart midshipman” who “mentored, and tutored me in our shared courses.”

“He is greatly exemplified the hardworking midshipman who helps anyone at the drop of a hat,” Delgado said. “He was a great man and will be dearly missed.”

— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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