Saturday, 25 Mar 2023

‘Selfless’ Navy SEAL killed in horror parachute accident as tributes pour in

A US Navy SEAL died after a free-fall parachute training exercise went wrong, leaving behind a devastated family.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael Ernst was rushed to Banner University Medical Centre in Phoenix, Arizona following the incident, but doctors were unable to save him and he was pronounced dead shortly after 2pm on Sunday (February 19).

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ernst family," the leader of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Keith Davids, said in the wake of the tragedy.

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"Mike was an exceptional teammate. He was a dedicated NSW Sailor who applied his talents and skills towards some of our nation’s hardest challenges, while selflessly mentoring his teammates," he added.

Ernst joined the Navy back in August 2009 before becoming a SEAL three years later.

The decorated military man had been awarded a Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor a military member can receive, as well as a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and three Combat Action Ribbons.

He has also left behind a heartbroken wife and two children, aged just five and two.

An investigation has been launched into the circumstances leading up to Ernst's death.

"The Navy is investigating the cause of the incident," command officials said.

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"It would be inappropriate to comment further on the ongoing investigation until complete."

Naval Special Warfare community operators are accustomed to practicing free-falling techniques, often performing these impressive stunts at high altitudes.

According to reports, Ernst's fatal accident is the first parachuting tragedy in nearly six years to result in the death of a Navy SEAL, the last of which saw Special Operator First Class Remington Peters lose his life in May 2017.

But the death is the Navy's fourth training-related fatality in just over a year.

In February 2022, Seaman Kyle Mullen died after completing Navy Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S).

The tragedy prompted a series of investigations into whether recruits were given proper medical care while attempting SEAL training or were being discouraged from asking for assistance if they needed it.

Electronics Technician First Class Ryan DeKorte tragically lost his life in May last year after he suffered injuries during a helicopter landing.

Another Navy SEAL, Brian Bourgeois, died during a fast-rope training evolution in December 2021.

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