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Navy sailor dies after rescue swimming training accident

Nathan Burke. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
April 16, 2021

A U.S. Navy sailor died on April 13, more than a week after a training mishap during rescue swimmer training at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Fla.

The Navy identified the sailor as Airman Nathan Burke, 30, of Lubbock, Texas. Burke reportedly became unresponsive during a training evolution Aviation Rescue Swimmer School on April 5.

The Navy said after Burke became unresponsive, “paramedics responded and achieved a spontaneous return of circulation and pulse. He was transported to the hospital and was placed on life-support.”

In a Tuesday Facebook post, Burke’s father, Kevin Burke, said, “After days of the best care and treatment, Darla and I were informed that he suffered severe and irreversible brain damage. Today we had to perform the horrific task that no parent should be required to do. Darla and I agreed to remove Nathan from life support so that he may join the Lord in peace.”

On Monday April 5 2021 while training to become a Navy rescue swimmer, Nathan experienced a cardiac incident. His…

Posted by Kevin Burke on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

After being taken off life support, Burke died at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

“Nathan lived a selfless and God loving life,” Kevin Burke wrote. “His never quit attitude made him the person we have known and loved. He never quit making the most of his life, helping, coaching, and mentoring others to be their best. Nor did his infectious smile and positive life outlook ever quit. The Navy Air Rescue Swimmer motto is ‘So others may live.'”

Kevin Burke wrote that as an organ donor, his son Nathan can continue that rescue swimmer mantra even after his death.

“We were told that Nathan could be giving the gift of life to as many as 150 people,” Kevin Burke wrote.

Kevin Burke also announced a scholarship fund in his son’s name and asked that those wishing to express their condolences send donations to the scholarship fund in lieu of flowers.

The Navy said, “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family, shipmates and friends of Airman Burke during this extremely difficult time.”

Naval Education and Training Command spokesman Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki told Navy Times that the cause of Burke’s death is under investigation.

Nathan Burke enlisted in the Navy in December 2020. Prior to enlisting, he worked as a strength and conditioning coach at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas.

On Thursday the Coronado High School posted on Facebook, “Let’s show our support and wear your Team Burke shirt! #WeAreCoronado #RelentlessPursuit.”