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Heartbreaking details revealed in SEAL team commander’s fatal fall from helicopter

Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, commanding officer of SEAL Team 8. (U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command photo/Released)
October 21, 2022

New details were revealed on Thursday about the death of Navy SEAL Team 8 Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, who died after he fell from a helicopter during a December 2021 training exercise.

Bourgeois, 43, died three days after he fell 40 feet from an Army Black Hawk helicopter during a fast-roping exercise in Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to Navy Times. Fast-roping is when troops descend a rope to deploy from a helicopter that hasn’t touched down.

Special operations officials revealed the incident was caused by helicopter communication issues, an early release of the Bourgeois’ rope, and “a lack of adequate communication between the aircrew and the partner ground force,” officials said, according to Navy Times.

The details were made public by U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which led the investigation because the Black Hawk belonged to its 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, according to Navy Times.

The investigation was completed in May but is undergoing final review, Navy Times reported. But its findings have led to changes to keep similar incidents from happening, a USASOC spokesman told Navy Times.

“USASOC has taken several steps to prevent future events of this nature, including rewriting multiple procedures to ensure both aircrew and partner ground force take appropriate steps to ensure communication is clear and safety remains an utmost concern for all,” the spokesman, Lt. Col. Michael Burns, said. 

Bourgeois was commissioned as a Navy officer in 2001, made commander in 2017 and joined SEAL Team 8 in November 2020, according to Navy Times. His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with the Combat “V” device and the combat action ribbon.

He was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Navy Times reported.

“His promotion to captain is an absolute testament to his character, competence, and leadership,” stated Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commanding officer at Naval Special Warfare Command. “Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective.”