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Naval Academy midshipman found dead in Chilean lagoon after an apparent hiking accident, officials say

Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, appeared to have lost his footing during a hike and then fell over a waterfall, officials said Monday.

A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman died in Chile after he appeared to have lost his footing during a hike and then fell over a waterfall, officials said Monday.

Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, was hiking with a Chilean Naval Academy student near the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, Chile, on Saturday morning when he stumbled and fell over the waterfall, The Naval Academy said, based upon reports from local officials.

Chilean authorities found Bird’s body in a lagoon by the waterfall the next morning, officials said. It’s unclear why it took authorities about 24 hours to find his body. The Naval Academy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Midshipman 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird.
Midshipman 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird.U.S. Naval Academy

Bird, a Midshipman 2nd Class, was spending a semester abroad in Chile. He was part of a program with the Arturo Prat Naval Academy, which serves as Chile’s Naval Academy.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” Vice Admiral Sean Buck, the Naval Academy’s superintendent, said in a statement. 

Buck urged members of the Naval Academy to support each other through the grieving process. 

Bird is from New Braunfels, Texas, where he wrestled for three years in high school and served as the battalion commander of his school’s Marine Corps JROTC unit.

At the Naval Academy, he was an ocean engineering major and intramural sports athlete, officials said.

Travis Delgado, one of Bird’s friends and a fellow midshipman, said Bird was “unfathomably smart” and a “great man.” 

“He mentored and tutored me in our shared courses, spending much of his free time helping me,” Delgado said in a statement. “He greatly exemplified the hard-working midshipman who helps anyone at the drop of a hat.”

Bird is the second midshipman with the Naval Academy to have died in less than two months. 

On June 7, midshipman Taylor Connors, 24, of Pleasant View, Utah, died in Philadelphia, the Naval Academy said. 

Connors died by suicide, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said Monday.

The Naval Academy said Connors enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2016 before receiving a Secretary of the Navy nomination for an appointment to the Naval Academy.

“Taylor Connors was the best of us,” Marine Corps Maj. David R. Emison II, the Naval Academy’s training officer and a mentor to Connors, said at the time. “Taylor was intensely bright, thoughtful, and a man of faith.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.