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Sailor dies after rescue swimming mishap in training

A Navy sailor who suffered a training exercise mishap at Aviation Rescue Swimmer School in Pensacola, Florida, died Tuesday.

Airman Nathan Burke became unresponsive April 5 as he was completing a training evolution in the pool at Naval Air Station Pensacola, according to the Navy. He was taken to Baptist Hospital.

“Paramedics responded and achieved a spontaneous return of circulation and pulse. He was transported to the hospital and was placed on life-support,” the Navy said in a news release Wednesday. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family, shipmates and friends of Airman Burke during this extremely difficult time.”

The cause of death is currently under investigation, according to Naval Education and Training Command spokesman Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki.

Burke, 30, originally from Lubbock, Texas, had been assigned to Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola since February. He enlisted in the Navy in December 2020.

The Navy said counseling is open for all students and staff members through the command, command chaplains and Fleet and Family Support Center.

Burke’s father, Kevin Burke, shared in a Facebook post Tuesday that Burke’s instructors attempted to revive him immediately, but that he ultimately encountered severe and irreversible brain damage.

“His instructors immediately sprang into action and began life saving measures,” Kevin Burke wrote in his post. “He was rushed to the hospital where he received the finest of care. 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.”

As an organ donor, Burke may help up to 150 other people live, his father wrote.

“Nathan lived a selfless and God loving life. His never quit attitude made him the person we have known and loved,” Kevin Burke wrote. “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.”

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