KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A 43-year-old U.S. soldier with COVID-19 died on the way to an American military hospital despite a roadside rescue attempt by emergency personnel, German police said Thursday.
The man, who has not been identified, would be the first known active-duty soldier to die from the virus, and 14th uniformed service member among all Defense Department services, the Reserve and the National Guard.
The Army in Europe confirmed Thursday that the soldier’s death was not service- or training-related, but did not comment further on the cause of his death.
The soldier had trouble breathing and collapsed in the passenger seat at about noon while his wife, also an American, was driving him to the hospital, Bernhard Christian Erfort, a spokesman for the Westpfalz police, said in a statement Wednesday.
German first responders were initially on the scene in Oberstaufenbach, a village between Baumholder and Kaiserslautern, Erfort said.
They revived the soldier with aid from his wife until further medical help arrived, Erfort said.
A helicopter landed in the street to airlift the man to the hospital, and firefighters and U.S. military police came to assist as well, but the man died at the scene, Erfort said.
When asked for details, U.S. Army Europe and Africa would confirm only that a soldier assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion of the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade in Baumholder died Wednesday.
“Our heartfelt and deepest sympathies go out to the soldier’s family at this difficult time,” the command said in a statement.
Erfort said the man and his wife both had the novel coronavirus and had been under quarantine for a week.
USAREUR-AF did not comment on whether the soldier had been in quarantine.
German news organization SWR reported that the rescue operation involved emergency personnel in protective suits. Erfort said the two first responders on scene did not wear protective gear.
The Pentagon’s coronavirus website reported Wednesday that 13 service members had died from the coronavirus, among 87,488 total infections.
Including dependents and contractors, the Defense Department has recorded 131,894 coronavirus cases and 143 deaths.
Germany is struggling to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections, and the government is considering imposing further restrictions during the holidays.
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