The U.S. Naval Academy identified the midshipman who died over the weekend in Chile during a study abroad program.
Midshipman 2nd Class Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, was hiking on Saturday morning with a Chilean Naval Academy student near the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla when he reportedly slipped. Chilean authorities found him dead Sunday morning in the waterfall’s lagoon.
Bird, originally from New Braunfels, Texas, was participating in a semester abroad program with Chile’s naval academy, the Arturo Prat Naval Academy.
“It is hard to find the words to summarize who Luke was, so instead, I find it appropriate to talk about his actions,” Midshipman 1st Class Travis Delgado, a friend of Bird’s from Texas, said in a news release Monday. “Luke was an unfathomably smart midshipman. We attended many courses together, allowing me to get to know him beyond just being company mates. He mentored, and tutored me in our shared courses, spending much of his free time helping me.
“He greatly exemplified the hard working midshipman who helps anyone at the drop of a hat,” Delgado added. “He was a great man and will be dearly missed by all those in 20th Company and throughout the brigade.”
As a student at New Braunfels High School, Bird was the wrestling team captain his junior and senior years, and served as the vice president of the National Honor Society and the battalion commander of the NBHS Marine Corps JROTC unit.
He received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement in November 2018 for his leadership in his community, along with outstanding achievement in scholastic and military subjects. Only four other Marine Corps JROTC cadets received the award that year.
Bird studied ocean engineering and was assigned to the 20th and 2nd Companies at the U.S. Naval Academy. He also participated in the Semper Fi Society and intramural sports.
Grief counseling and support services are available to midshipmen, faculty and staff through the Midshipmen Development Center, Chaplain’s Center, and chain of command.
“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck, 63rd Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, said in a statement Monday. “My wife, Joanne, and I and the entire Naval Academy community offer our sincerest condolences to Luke’s family, friends, and fellow midshipmen during this difficult time. I encourage all of our Naval Academy family to offer support to one another as we navigate the grieving process.”
Funeral plans are pending.