A Navy SEAL team commander’s death during a helicopter training event last December had several primary causes, officials confirmed for the first time Thursday.
They included communication issues within the aircraft, an early release of the rope that then-Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois used to descend to the target area, and “a lack of adequate communication between the aircrew and the partner ground force,” special operations officials confirmed.
Bourgeois, 43, was fatally injured Dec. 4, 2021, during the fast-rope Joint Special Operations Command training evolution in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The decorated combat veteran and commander of SEAL Team 8 fell 40 feet from an Army Black Hawk helicopter and succumbed to his injuries Dec. 7, 2021.
His wife and family were with him when he passed, Navy leadership said at the time.
The new details of what lead to Bourgeois’ death were made public Thursday by U.S. Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC, which has taken the lead in the investigation because the mishap helicopter belonged to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Officials did not provide further details Thursday, and the Army has yet to make public its investigation into the fatal mishap, which was completed in May but is undergoing final review.
Still, the incident has led to several reforms within USASOC, command spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Burns said in an email.
“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,” Burns said.
Also this week, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro posthumously promoted Bourgeois to the rank of captain.
“The loss of Brian is still felt throughout the Naval Special Warfare community,” Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commanding officer Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement Wednesday. “His promotion to captain is an absolute testament to his character, competence, and leadership. Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective. He led by example, was a terrific teammate, and a committed father, husband, and friend.”
Bourgeois attended the U.S. Naval Academy, was commissioned in May 2001 and went on to serve in the Naval Special Warfare community for more than two decades.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star with Combat “V” device and the combat action ribbon.
Navy records show he made commander in 2017 and joined SEAL Team 8 in November 2020.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.