US midshipman dead after falling over Chilean waterfall

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A U.S. midshipman from Texas has died after falling over a waterfall while studying abroad in Chile, the U.S. Naval Academy announced Monday.

Midshipman 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, of New Braunfels, Texas, was taking part in a semester abroad at Chile’s Arturo Prat Naval Academy when he went hiking with a student from the school around 11 a.m. Saturday, the academy said.

Bird, a junior, reportedly lost his footing near the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, located in the Valparaíso region of Chile, and fell over the falls, academy officials said.

Authorities pulled Bird’s body from a lagoon of the waterfall around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

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“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.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird of New Braunfels, Texas, died Saturday after falling over a waterfall in Chile while participating in a semester abroad program at Chile’s Arturo Prat Naval Academy. 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird of New Braunfels, Texas, died Saturday after falling over a waterfall in Chile while participating in a semester abroad program at Chile’s Arturo Prat Naval Academy.  (U.S. Navy via AP)

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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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. 

While 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 students in his company 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.

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