Navy Airman Dies After Rescue Swimmer School Accident at Pensacola



A 30-year-old sailor and former high school strength-and-conditioning coach died Tuesday, more than a week after he became unresponsive while training to save fellow service members.

Airman Nathan Burke of Lubbock, Texas, died at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, Navy officials announced. He’d been attending Aviation Rescue Swimmer School and was training in a pool April 5 when he became unresponsive.

Paramedics responded and “achieved a spontaneous return of circulation and pulse,” officials with Naval Education and Training Command said. Burke was then transported to the hospital, where he was put on life support.

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“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family, shipmates and friends of Airman Burke during this extremely difficult time,” the command said in a news release.

The incident occurred during a high-risk training evolution in the pool, said Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki, a Naval Education and Training Command spokesman.

Counseling has been made available to staff members and students through their chains of command, chaplains, or Fleet and Family Support Center.

Burke joined the Navy in December and reported to Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola. Before the Navy, he worked as a strength-and-conditioning coach at Coronado High School in Texas, according to a Facebook post made by the school April 7.

“Nathan Burke … is not doing well and needs our thoughts and prayers,” it states. “He worked with a lot of our Mustang athletes and made a huge impact in their lives. We want him to know that we are pulling for him!”

Burke’s father said his son was an organ donor, according to KLBK in Lubbock, and cited the Navy Air Rescue Swimmer motto of “So others may live.”

“We were told that Nathan could be giving the gift of life to as many as 150 people,” his father said, according to the station.

The family has plans to honor Burke with athletic scholarships, the news report adds.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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