Chilean Officials Discover 21-Year-Old U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Deceased Body In Lagoon
U.S. Navy

United States Naval Academy announced on Monday that Chilean authorities found the body of 21-year-old Texas native Luke Gabriel Bird, Midshipman Second Class, in a lagoon of the Salto El Agua waterfall in the Valparaíso Region of Chile.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck, 63rd Superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy, said in a statement. “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.”

Officials reported Bird slipped and fell over the waterfall on July 16 during a hike with a Chilean Naval Academy student. Travel experts ranked the trail’s difficulty as hard due to the uneven terrain that requires ropes for maneuvering up and down near the waterfall.

Bird enrolled at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy — Chile’s Naval Academy — to train in a semester abroad program where he served in the 20th and Second Companies.

Travis Delgado, Midshipman First Class and a friend of Bird, said rather than finding words to summarize Luke’s character, he would rather talk about his actions.

“Luke was an unfathomably smart midshipman,” Delgado said. “We attended many courses together, allowing me to get to know him beyond just being company mates.”

Delgado said Bird spent much of his free time mentoring and tutoring him in courses they took together.

“He greatly exemplified the hard working 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.”

Officials authorized Bird to wear the National Defense Service Medal, a bronze medal awarded to cadets or midshipmen at the Air Force, Army, or Naval Academy. He also earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification Badge.

Bird lived in New Braunfels, Texas, where he attended New Braunfels High School and involved himself in sports and other extracurricular activities. He wrestled for the high school for three years, serving as the team’s captain for his junior and senior years. When he wasn’t wrestling, officials said he was an avid cyclist, active in student government, and vice president of the National Honor Society.

Before enlisting in the Naval Academy, Bird joined the NBHS Marine Corps JROTC unit as a battalion commander. Officials selected him as one of only five Marine Corps JROTC cadets in the nationwide program to receive a Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement. The award recognized Bird for his outstanding achievement in scholastic and military subjects and outstanding leadership demonstrated in school and the community.

Bird also pursued a degree in ocean engineering while enlisted as an active member of the Semper Fi Society and competed with fellow mates as an intramural sports athlete.

“Bird is survived by his mother, Audra Courter, and stepfather, Matthew Craig Courter; his father, Chad Bird, and stepmother, Stacy Bird; his sister, Auriana Mallory and husband Josh; step-siblings Candace Shover, Shelbi Nickerson, Colton Nickerson, Nakayla Courter, Tabitha Coombes and their families; grandparents Ted and Nelda Dickman, and Carson and Jeanette Bird; step-grandparents Stephen Awbrey, and David and Judy Osborne; aunts and uncles Rayna and Scott Barefoot, Annette Dickman and Colleen Aken, Cara and Mike Pilch, Rob and Stephanie Carnes, and Shannon and Kenny Kahlden; as well as 12 cousins, and eight nieces and nephews,” officials said.


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