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Decorated Navy SEAL dies in free-fall parachute training accident

Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst died Sunday following the military free-fall training accident in Marana, Arizona.

A decorated U.S. Navy Seal died over the weekend after a free-fall parachute training exercise in Arizona, officials said. 

Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst was pronounced dead at Banner University Medical Center following the military training in Marana on Sunday, the Naval Special Warfare Command said in a statement. 

Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst.U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command

It's not clear what happened during the exercise and the Navy is investigating the cause of the incident.

The Naval Special Warfare Command said “It would be inappropriate to comment further on the ongoing investigation until complete.”

Ernst, of Massachusetts, was assigned to a Naval Special Warfare East Coast-based unit. 

Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, remembered Ernst as "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. Mike and his family will always be part of the NSW family, and he will never be forgotten,” Davids added.

Ernst had enlisted in the Navy in 2009 and attended a SEAL training the following year. He spent much of the past decade assigned to an East Coast Special Warfare Unit.

Ernst earned a slew of awards and decorations in his time of service including a Silver Star — the third-highest military combat decoration awarded for gallantry in action, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.