Veteran Navy SEAL, a father of two, killed in free-fall parachute training incident
A veteran Navy SEAL and father of two has died during free-fall parachute training, the Naval Special Warfare Command said.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael Ernst was training in Arizona before his death Feb. 19, military officials said.
"Navy SEAL Mike Ernst was a courageous warrior, loving husband, devoted father, and steadfast teammate to his fellow SEALs," U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, a former White House physician and retired Navy rear admiral, wrote on Twitter Thursday. "Mike tragically died in a military parachute training accident while serving his country."
His exact cause of death was not immediately known. The Navy did not provide additional details about the accident, which remained under investigation Friday.
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Here is what we know:
The incident occurred Feb. 19..
Ernst was performing a high-altitude, low-opening jump, or HALO, at an airfield in Marana, Arizona, just outside Tucson.
He was taken to a hospital in Phoenix, where he was pronounced dead.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ernst family,” Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement to the Military Times. “Mike was an exceptional teammate. He was a dedicated NSW sailor who applied his talents and skills toward some of our nation’s hardest challenges, while selflessly mentoring his teammates.”
Who was Ernst?
He was a married father of two children, ages 2 and 5.
He was a native of Massachusetts.
He enlisted in the Navy in 2009.
He attended SEAL training the following year and graduated as a SEAL in 2012.
Officials said Ernst spent the rest of his career assigned to a SEAL team on the East Coast except for a stint as a student at MIT for the 2021-2022 school year, during which he remained on active duty.
He was awarded a Silver Star for actions in combat, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, according to records released by the Navy.
Fourth training death since late 2021
Ernst’s death marks the fourth known death of an active-duty Naval Special Warfare sailor since late 2021. Below are listed in order of the most recent:
April 2022: Lt. j.g. Aaron Fowler, 29, was an NSW EOD officer when he was killed during explosive ordnance training at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.
February 2022: Kyle Mullen, 24, a student in the early stages of SEAL training who had just completed the notorious “Hell Week,” died of pneumonia in his dorm in Coronado, California.
December 2021: Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, 43, commander of SEAL Team 8, died during a fast-rope training exercise from a helicopter in Virginia. According to his obituary, he died on Dec. 7, 2021.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Navy SEAL Michael Ernst killed in free-fall parachute training