Navy Identifies Naval Special Warfare Sailor Who Died After Reported Helicopter Crash Landing

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Electronics Technician 1st Class Ryan DeKorte
Electronics Technician 1st Class Ryan DeKorte, 35, a sailor assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit died Monday, May 9 at 12:35 p.m. EST, at a local hospital after sustaining injuries after a helicopter landing incident during joint training at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story on May 5. (U.S. Navy)

The Navy has identified the sailor who died Monday following a helicopter landing incident last week as Electronics Technician 1st Class Ryan DeKorte, 35, in a statement released Wednesday.

DeKorte, who was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit, died at 12:35 p.m. Monday at a local hospital "after sustaining injuries after a helicopter landing incident during joint training at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story on May 5," the Navy said in an earlier release.

According to the Navy, DeKorte was a native of Lubbock, Texas, who joined the service in 2014. Before being assigned to a Naval Special Warfare command in 2020, he served aboard the destroyer USS Jason Dunham.

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"Ryan was an exceptional teammate, and we mourn his tragic loss," Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in the statement.

"Ryan was one of our premiere [sic] combat support technicians. ... His humility, stewardship and commitment to Naval Special Warfare made an indelible mark on his teammates and our community," Howard added.

The Navy has said that "the details of the incident are currently under investigation" but WTKR, a local TV station, reported May 5 that an aircraft experienced a hard landing at the base and that three people had been sent to the hospital.

This is the latest in a recent string of Naval Special Warfare training deaths that goes back seven months. In December, Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, 43, who was commanding officer of SEAL Team 8, was injured in "a fast-rope training evolution" in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and died three days later.

In February, the Navy said Seaman Kyle Mullen, a SEAL trainee, died hours after completing the torturous "Hell Week" test in San Diego. According to the Navy, he and another SEAL trainee reported experiencing symptoms of an unknown illness.

Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., noted in a congressional hearing Wednesday with top Navy leaders that he's "heard from the family as well as families of other candidates that were there at the time" of the death that the command has issues "when it comes to medical care, oversight, access to medical records that isn't just about Kyle Mullen."

"When it comes to Kyle's case, not only was there not a doctor on site at the time of his emergency -- following his death, it had been increasingly difficult for his family to get information from the medical team," Kim added.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro assured Kim that the service has "already taken some preliminary steps to ensure -- as one example -- that medical providers are immediately available at all times ... as opposed to being on call."

While training deaths among Navy special operators are not common, there have been more than 20 fatalities among SEALs since 2001, according to records kept by the Navy SEAL Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports families and veterans of the program.

The Navy's statement noted that "Naval Special Warfare is committed to supporting the DeKorte family, and the Sailors who lost a teammate during this difficult time."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Navy Identifies SEAL Trainee who Died After Hell Week

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