Midshipman 2nd Class (junior) Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, of New Braunfels, Texas Credit: U.S. Naval Academy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The body of Midshipman 2nd Class (junior) Luke Gabriel Bird, 21, of New Braunfels, Texas, was found by Chilean authorities on July 17, 2022, at approximately 10:30 a.m. in a lagoon of the Salto El Agua waterfall in Placilla, in the Valparaíso region of Chile.

Bird was in Chile participating in a semester abroad program at the Arturo Prat Naval Academy, which serves as Chile’s Naval Academy. He reportedly lost his footing and fell over the waterfall at approximately 11:00 a.m. on July 16, 2022, while hiking with a Chilean Naval Academy student near the waterfall.

“We are incredibly saddened by the tragic loss of Midshipman Luke Bird this weekend,” said Vice Adm. Sean Buck, 63rd Superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy. “My wife, Joanne, and I and the entire Naval Academy community offer our sincerest condolences to Luke’s family, friends, and fellow midshipmen during this difficult time. I encourage all of our Naval Academy family to offer support to one another as we navigate the grieving process.”

Bird attended New Braunfels High School, where he was a three-year member of the wrestling team and captain both junior and senior years. He was an avid cyclist, active in student government, vice president of the National Honor Society, and the battalion commander of the NBHS Marine Corps JROTC unit. In November 2018, he was selected as one of only five Marine Corps JROTC cadets in the nationwide program to receive a Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement, recognizing outstanding achievement in scholastic and military subjects and outstanding leadership demonstrated in both schools and in the community. 

At the Naval Academy, Bird was a member of the 20th and 2nd Companies. He was an ocean engineering major, an active member of the Semper Fi Society, and competed with his company mates as an intramural sports athlete.

“It is hard to find the words to summarize who Luke was, so instead, I find it appropriate to talk about his actions,” said Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Travis Delgado, a friend of Bird’s and fellow Texan. “Luke was an unfathomably smart midshipman. We attended many courses together, allowing me to get to know him beyond just being company mates. He mentored and tutored me in our shared courses, spending much of his free time helping me. 

“He greatly exemplified the hard-working midshipman who helps anyone at the drop of a hat,” Delgado continued. “He was a great man and will be dearly missed by all those in 20th Company and throughout the brigade.”

Bird was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal and had earned the Marksman Rifle Qualification Badge and Sharpshooter Pistol Qualification Badge.

The Midshipmen Development Center, Chaplain’s Center, and chain of command provide grief counseling and support services to midshipmen, faculty, and staff. 

The U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, U.S. Southern Command, and the U.S. Embassy in Chile are grateful to the Chilean firefighters, police, and armed forces for their tireless efforts to locate our midshipman.

Funeral arrangements are pending; further information will be provided as it becomes available. The Naval Academy will continue to support Bird’s family, friends, and loved ones during this time of grief. 

Bird is survived by his mother, Audra Courter, and stepfather, Matthew Craig Courter; his father, Chad Bird, and stepmother, Stacy Bird; his sister, Auriana Mallory and husband Josh; step-siblings Candace Shover, Shelbi Nickerson, Colton Nickerson, Nakayla Courter, Tabitha Coombes, and their families; grandparents Ted and Nelda Dickman, and Carson and Jeanette Bird; step-grandparents Stephen Awbrey, and David and Judy Osborne; aunts and uncles Rayna and Scott Barefoot, Annette Dickman and Colleen Aken, Cara and Mike Pilch, Rob and Stephanie Carnes, and Shannon and Kenny Kahlden; as well as 12 cousins, and eight nieces and nephews.


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