Naval Academy midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird confirmed dead in hiking accident in Chile

A Naval Academy midshipman died over a waterfall while hiking in Chile over the weekend, officials said.

The body of 21-year-old Luke Gabriel Bird was found by Chilean authorities on Sunday morning in a lagoon off the Salto El Agua waterfall, the US Naval Academy wrote in a statement Monday.

Bird, a 2nd Class Midshipman (junior college equivalent) from Texas, was in the South American country on a study abroad program with Chile’s Naval Academy.

US officials said he slipped Saturday morning while hiking with a Chilean naval academy student, resulting in his death.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” said Vice Admiral Sean Buck, 63rd Superintendent of the US Naval Academy.

21-year-old Naval Academy Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird tragically lost his life in Chile over the weekend while on a hike.
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Bird standing in front of a waterfall.
Bird had been part of a Marine Corps JROTC unit in high school, showing his early commitment to service.
United States Naval Academy Facebook

“My wife, Joanne, and I and the entire Naval Academy community offer our deepest condolences to Luke’s family, friends and fellow midshipmen during this difficult time. I encourage our entire Naval Academy family to support each other as we navigate the grieving process.

Bird is remembered as a three-year member of his high school wrestling team in New Braunfels and captain of the team in his junior and senior years. He was also active in his student government, vice president of the National Honor Society and battalion commander of his high school’s Marine Corps JROTC unit, the academy wrote.

Bird with friends on a hiking trail.
Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird (right) with friends. All of Bird’s accounts by friends consider him an exemplary midshipman.
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He was one of five JROTC Sea Cadets nationwide to be awarded a Legion of Bravery Bronze Cross in November 2018 which recognizes “outstanding achievement in academic and military matters and outstanding leadership demonstrated at both in school and in the community,” according to the academy.

At the Naval Academy, Bird was an ocean engineering specialist and an active member of the Semper Fi Society who enjoyed playing intramural sports.

A friend and classmate described him as “an incredibly smart wannabe”.

Bird in uniform with other midshipmen at MetLife Stadium.
Midshipman Luke Gabriel Bird (right) in his Naval Academy uniform with classmates at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
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“We took many courses together which allowed me to get to know him beyond just being company mates,” said Midshipman 1st Class (Senior Equivalent) Travis Delgado. “He mentored and mentored me in our shared lessons, spending much of his free time helping me.

“He greatly exemplified the aspiring worker who helps anyone in no time. He was a great man and will be greatly missed by all of 20 Company and the entire Brigade.

Luke Gabriel Bird with other midshipmen in physical training gear near a river.
Bird’s legacy will be carried on by his family and fellow midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy.
United States Naval Academy Facebook

Bird, who is survived by many family members including his parents and in-laws, earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and the Marksman Pistol Qualification Badge , officials said.

The Naval Academy also declared that he was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal.

Funeral arrangements are pending.