The Washington Examiner reported Wednesday that 43-year-old Brian Bourgeois, the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 8, died this week following injuries sustained during a training exercise that was being conducted days earlier.
The training accident occurred Dec. 4, the Examiner said, and is currently under investigation. Bourgeois died three days later, on Tuesday, in a Virginia hospital.
Training exercise ends in tragedy
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Navy said “initial indications show that the tragedy occurred during a fast-rope training evolution.”
“There is an ongoing command and safety investigation into the incident, and we will release those findings at the appropriate time,” the spokesperson added, according to the New York Post.
According to the Associated Press, Bourgeois is believed to have fallen “while fast-roping down from a helicopter” near Virginia Beach, Virginia.
A report from Newsweek explained that the “fast-roping” exercise involves many service members sliding “down a thick, heavy rope,” in quick succession, as they might if the aircraft couldn’t land in a combat zone.
“It was unclear whether the rope detached from the aircraft,” Newsweek reported.
“An incident like this weighs heavily on us”
In the wake of the tragedy, Capt. Donald Wetherbee said Navy leaders are “working with SEAL Team 8 to provide every form of support we possibly can to Brian’s family and teammates.”
Bourgeois attended the U.S. Naval Academy, according to reports, and has served in the Navy for some two decades.
“An incident like this weighs heavily on us all,” Wetherbee said, according to the Examiner. “Brian was as tough as they come, an outstanding leader, and a committed father, husband and friend. This is a great loss to everyone who knew him. He will be greatly missed.”
According to the Examiner, Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III also released a statement remembering Bourgeois as a talented and charismatic leader.
“Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective,” Howard said. “We will miss his charismatic leadership and faithful stewardship of our standard,” Howard added. “His legacy carries on in teammates he served with, led, and mentored.”