U.S. midshipman plunges to death at Chilean waterfall

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A midshipman from Texas died after falling over a waterfall in Chile, the U.S. Naval Academy announced Monday.

Midshipman 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird of New Braunfels, Texas, was participating in a semester abroad program at Chile’s Arturo Prat Naval Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy said in a news release. The 21-year-old junior was hiking with a student from the school Saturday near the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, in the Valparaíso region when he reportedly lost his footing and fell over the waterfall, the academy said.

Chilean authorities found Bird’s body in the waterfall’s lagoon Sunday.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the U.S. Naval Academy’s superintendent, said in a statement. “I encourage all of our Naval Academy family to offer support to one another as we navigate the grieving process.”

Bird attended New Braunfels High School, where he was captain of the wrestling team in his junior and senior years and was active in student government, the academy said. At the Naval Academy, Bird was a member of the 20th and 2nd Companies and an ocean engineering major. He was a member of the Semper Fi Society and competed with companymates as an intramural sports athlete. Bird was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal and had earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification Badge, the academy said.

Midshipman 1st Class Travis Delgado, a friend and fellow Texan, called Bird “unfathomably smart” saying Bird mentored and tutored him in their shared courses.

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

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