Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unconscious Soldier Left On The Road For Three Hours In Severe Heat

18-year-old Army recruit fell from moving truck while being transported after collapsing from heat

By H. Nelson Goodson
August 26, 2009

Milwaukee – Private Jonathan Morales, 18, of Milwaukee, an Army recruit was in his tenth week of basic group training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina when he died of complications resulting from a heat stroke, according to Gary Watts, Richland County Coroner. Watts reported last week, Morales had collapsed during an eight-mile march portion of the Army physical fitness exercise and was put behind an Army truck to transport him back to the base.
The commanding officer had noticed Morales becoming unsteady on his feet and had him placed in back of a truck, while the rest of the group continued their exercise. Various trucks were following the group and Morales was placed in the last truck without anyone to assist him. The truck driver followed the rest of the trucks, while Morales lay unconscious in the back.
“At some point in time from that point when he was put in to when they actually completed the march, they noticed that he was no longer in the back of the truck, and he suffered a head injury. However, we believe the precipitating events would be related to heat exertion or heat stroke. His body temperature, approximately an hour after he'd been admitted to Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital and had been placed at some point in time under a cooling blanket, was in excess of 106 degrees,” Watts said, but he ruled that heat stroke was the caused of death.
However, there are conflicting reports of who actually found Morales on the road. The army reported that when they discover him missing they went back and found him a quarter, half of a mile from where they had finished up on the roadway. The Morales family were told that a civilian had found Pvt. Morales unconscious on the road and called 911.
Family members say, Army investigators and his commanding officer had said that Morales at some point during transport had fallen off the truck, but no one or the driver of the truck had noticed he was missing. Morales fell on the road and apparently hit his head and remained on the road for more than three hours until a civilian found him and called 911. He was taken to a near by hospital in Columbia, S.C., which is next to the base. The Morales family is expected to seek an inquiry into the death of their son.
The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 18, and Morales was found shortly after 1:30 p.m., when the heat index was about 92 Fahrenheit, with dew point at 72 Fahrenheit, and a maximum of humidity at 94 percent, according to weather tabular data for Columbia, South Carolina.
His commanding officer and other Army personnel were later notified Morales was transported to a civilian hospital for treatment, but by then it was to late to save him. Morales died last Wednesday shortly after 4 a.m., according to Watts.
Morales graduated from Pius XI High School in 2009, and shortly after enlisted in the Army.
The US Army Criminal Investigation Division and Fort Jackson's internal Ground Accident Investigation Board are investigating the incident. The death is the first in basic training at the fort this year following three in 2008, said Pat Jones, fort spokesman. The Army and Fort Jackson consider the incident a fatal army training accident, Jones added.
In 2008, three recruits died within a month. Pvt. Andrea Rosser, 21, of Raleigh, NC, died in October 25, while taking the Army Physical Fitness Test. Pvt. Dominique Brooks, 19, of Houston, died Sept. 25 after having a seizure on her barracks floor, and Pvt. Derryl Britt, 20, of Durham, N.C., died Sept. 27 when he was taken off life support after surgery to repair a brain hemorrhage.
In the last six years, 22 soldiers have died while assigned to the Army’s five basic combat training centers. Of the eight deaths that occurred on duty, five were related to physical training or heat casualties, according to Fort Jackson’s investigative records.
On Wednesday, family, fellow soldiers, his commanding officer, and friends at the Suminski Family Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Ave., remembered Morales. Morales is the beloved son of Marisol Desarden and Sebastian Morales. His sister Odalysse A. Morales, and brothers Sebastian Morales, Jr. and Jayson Morales survive him.
Burial Services at 12:00 noon on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, at Wisconsin Memorial Park, 13235 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield, WI.

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