Commanding officer of Navy SEAL Team 8 died after fast-rope training mishap

The Navy is investigating the incident that led to the death of Navy Commander Brian Bourgeois, officials said.

Updated: December 8, 2021 - 4:28pm

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The U.S. Navy SEAL who died on Tuesday following a training accident was SEAL Team 8 commanding officer Brian Bourgeois, the Navy said.

Bourgeois, 43 - a former Navy football player - died at a civilian hospital after being injured Dec. 7, most likely following a mishap during a fast-rope exercise, according to Lt. Cmdr. Kara Handley of Naval Special Warfare Command.

"Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective," said Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. "We will miss his charismatic leadership and faithful stewardship of our standard. His legacy carries on in teammates he served with, led, and mentored."

Bourgeois saw service with the SEALs in Iraq and other locales, and was awarded the Bronze Star with combat "v" device for valor, the Navy said. 

A 2001 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Bourgeois played Navy football for four years.            

In his honor, Navy players this weekend will run onto the field while carrying a SEAL Team 8 flag at the start of the Army-Navy football game. 

The Navy is investigating the incident that led to Bourgeois' death, officials said.

Fast-roping is a technique for descending rapidly along a rope suspended from a helicopter, and is used for boarding ships at sea, or during missions where a helicopter does not land. The mishap involving Bourgeois took place in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Navy said.

"An incident like this weighs heavily on us all," said Capt. Donald G. Wetherbee, commodore, Naval Special Warfare Group 2. "Brian was as tough as they come, an outstanding leader, and a committed father, husband and friend. This is a great loss to everyone who knew him. He will be greatly missed."