Navy SEAL team commander dies after training exercise in Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A Navy SEAL commander died Tuesday after he was injured in a fast-rope training exercise on Saturday, officials said.

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Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, 43, the commanding officer of SEAL Team 8, died in a Norfolk, Virginia, hospital, WAVY-TV reported. He was injured in Virginia Beach, the television station reported.

Fast-roping is a technique where SEAL teams descend a 1.57-inch rope from helicopters, usually carrying heavy equipment, according to WAVY. SEAL team members grasp the rope with gloved hands and slide down between 15 and 40 feet, depending on the aircraft’s hovering height, the television station reported.

“We are working with SEAL Team 8 to provide every form of support we possibly can to Brian’s family and teammates,” Capt. Donald G. Wetherbee, commodore, Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said in a statement. “An incident like this weighs heavily on us all. Brian was as tough as they come, an outstanding leader, and a committed father, husband and friend.”

Bourgeois is survived by his wife and five children, WAVY reported.

“Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective,” Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement. “We will miss his charismatic leadership and faithful stewardship of our standard.”

Bourgeois graduated in 2001 from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played football, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Navy’s college football team will honor Bourgeois on Saturday during the annual Army-Navy game, which will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, NavySports.com reported.

According to the Annapolis Capital-Gazette, the team will run onto the field with a SEAL Team 8 flag along with the traditional American, Navy and Marine Corps flags. There will be a No. 13 home blue jersey adorned with two SEAL Team 8 patches placed prominently on the Navy sideline, and two players will wear SEAL Team 8 patches on their uniforms.

The patches were given to Navy wide receivers coach Mick Yokitis, a 2006 Naval Academy graduate, by Bourgeois earlier this year, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

SEAL Team 8 is part of Naval Special Warfare Group Two, which is based out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, WAVY reported. They have a geographic concentration in the Caribbean, Africa and the Mediterranean.

The details of the accident remain under investigation, according to Navy Times. Officials said the findings will be made available “at the appropriate time.”