Naval Academy midshipman dead after falling over Chilean waterfall

A Naval Academy midshipman fell to his death over a waterfall while hiking in Chile over the weekend, officials said.

The body of Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, was found by Chilean authorities Sunday morning in a lagoon off the Salto El Agua waterfall, the US Naval Academy wrote in a Monday statement.

Bird, a midshipman 2nd class (equivalent to a college junior) from Texas, was in the South American country as part of a study abroad program with Chile’s naval academy.

US officials said he reportedly slipped Saturday morning while hiking with a Chilean naval academy student, resulting in his death.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” said Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the US Naval Academy’s 63rd superintendent.

21-year-old Naval Academy Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird in his dress uniform.
21-year-old Naval Academy Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird tragically lost his life in Chile over the weekend while hiking.
Bird standing in front of a waterfall.
Bird had been part of a Marine Corps JROTC unit in high school, showing his early commitment to the service.

“My wife, Joanne, and I and the entire Naval Academy community offer our sincerest condolences to Luke’s family, friends, and fellow midshipmen during this difficult time. I encourage all of our Naval Academy family to offer support to one another as we navigate the grieving process.”

Bird was remembered as a three-year member of his high school wrestling team in New Braunfels and captain of the squad in his junior and senior years. He was also active in his student government, vice president of the National Honor Society and the battalion commander of his high school’s Marine Corps JROTC unit, the academy wrote.

Bird with friends on a hiking trail.
Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird (right) with friends. All accounts of Bird made by friends peg him as an exemplary midshipman.

He was one of five Marine JROTC cadets nationwide to receive a Legion of Valor Bronze Cross in November 2018 that recognizes “outstanding achievement in both scholastic and military subjects and outstanding leadership demonstrated in both school and in the community,” according to the academy.

At the Naval Academy, Bird was an ocean engineering major and an active Semper Fi Society member who enjoyed playing intramural sports.

One friend and classmate described him as “an unfathomably smart midshipman.”

Bird in uniform with other Midshipmen at MetLife Stadium.
Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird (right) in his Naval Academy dress uniform with classmates at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

“We attended many courses together, allowing me to get to know him beyond just being company mates,” said Midshipman 1st Class (equivalent to a senior) Travis Delgado. “He mentored, and tutored me in our shared courses, spending much of his free time helping me.

“He greatly exemplified the hardworking midshipman who helps anyone at the drop of a hat. He was a great man and will be dearly missed by all those in 20th Company and throughout the brigade.”

Luke Gabriel Bird with fellow Midshipmen in physical training gear near a river.
Bird’s legacy will be carried on by his family and fellow midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy.

Bird, who is survived by many family members including his parents and stepparents, earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification Badge, officials said.

The Naval Academy also said he was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Per: NYP

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