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Annapolis

Naval Academy identifies midshipman who died as Luke Gabriel Bird

The U.S. Naval Academy has identified the midshipman who died Saturday as Midshipman Second Class Luke Gabriel Bird of New Braunfels, Texas.

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Bird, 21, was visiting Chile for a semester abroad program at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy, which serves as Chile’s Naval Academy. While on a hike with another Naval Academy student, Bird reportedly lost his footing and fell over a waterfall around 11 a.m. Saturday, the academy said in a news release.

Bird was found by Chilean authorities at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday in a lagoon of the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, in the Valparaíso region of Chile.

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

The academy announced a midshipman had died Sunday afternoon but withheld an identity while notifying the family.

On Monday, the academy thanked Chilean authorities for their efforts in finding Bird, an ocean engineering major and member of the 20th and 2nd Companies. He was also a member of the Semper Fi Society and competed in intramural sports.

Bird attended New Braunfels High School where he was a three-year member of the wrestling team and served as captain as a junior and senior. In addition to being an avid cyclist, a member of student government and vice president of the National Honor Society, Bird was the battalion commander of the NBHS Marine Corps JROTC unit.

He was one of just five Marine Corps JROTC cadets to receive a Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement, an award “recognizing outstanding achievement in both scholastic and military subjects and outstanding leadership demonstrated in both school and in the community,” according to the academy news release.

At the academy, Bird was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal and had earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification Badge.

“It is hard to find the words to summarize who Luke was, so instead, I find it appropriate to talk about his actions,” Midshipman First Class Travis Delgado, a friend of Bird’s and fellow Texan, said in an academy news release. “Luke was an unfathomably smart midshipman. We attended many courses together, allowing me to get to know him beyond just being company mates. 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,” Delgado added. “He was a great man and will be dearly missed by all those in 20th Company and throughout the brigade.”

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The Midshipmen Development Center, Chaplain’s Center, and chain of command are providing grief counseling and support services to midshipmen, faculty, and staff.

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Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bird is the second midshipman to die this year. Midshipman First Class Taylor Connors, 24, died in Philadelphia in June.

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Connors’ family was at his bedside when he died, the academy said in a news release. The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated, and foul play is not suspected. Connors, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was on leave from the academy when he died.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lilly Price contributed to this article.


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