Monday, March 30, 2020

UPDATE: Two senior cadets reportedly die by suicide in a four-day span

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 8:14 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
UPDATE: This just in from the Academy:

We are deeply saddened to confirm that a US Air Force Academy cadet was found dead in the cadet area Saturday afternoon. This follows another cadet death Thursday morning. Both were Cadets First-Class.

“These tragedies have caused incredible shock and pain throughout our USAFA family,” said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Air Force Academy Superintendent. “Right now we are all focused on taking care of the cadet's families and each other—our cadets, our faculty, our staff— as we grieve this loss. We ask for everyone’s patience and respect for the families’ privacy at this time.”

Academy leaders, the chaplain's office and mental health professionals are providing support and grief counseling to cadets, faculty and staff.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths are currently under investigation, but neither was COVID-19-related and foul play is not suspected in either case. 
Read Gen. Silveria's message from March 30:

——————-ORIGINAL POST 8:14 A.M. MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020————————-
Two senior cadets at the Air Force Academy reportedly completed suicide in the last several days, according to sources and social media.

The Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, based at Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, will speak to the senior class on Monday, March 30, according to sources. Goldfein is reportedly flying in from Washington, D.C.

The senior class, called firsties, is the only group of cadets left on the campus north of Colorado Springs after the Academy released and sent home the lower classes about two weeks ago as a measure to combat COVID-19. No information about the cadets' deaths or identities has been released officially. But according to stripes.com:

The first death occurred Thursday and was not related to the coronavirus, the Academy said in a statement. No details have been made public about the second death, and neither cadet has been identified.

Both of the deceased were male cadets who would have graduated and would have been commissioned as second lieutenants in May.

Because both deaths “happened behind closed doors,” academy officials “want cadets with the doors open more,” said one of the sources with knowledge of the situation.

Most of the nearly 4,000 cadets at the academy were dismissed more than two weeks ago and are studying remotely until the end of the academic year. The unprecedented move was taken to allow seniors, who remain on campus, to be housed in individual rooms, where they also take online classes, to allow them to follow social-distancing guidelines, which are considered key in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the strict measures, two senior cadets have tested positive for the virus, the academy said Friday. Both are in isolation and are being watched closely. Two civilian employees and an active-duty service member also have been confirmed to have the virus, which, in some cases, causes severe lung illness.

The academy is working to identify anyone who has been in close contact with cadets and staff who have the virus, and has closed several facilities for deep cleaning and disinfection, officials said. 
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria wrote a letter on Facebook on March 27 to the "USAFA community" discussing the first death, which took place on March 26, but there doesn't appear to be a follow up mentioning the second death, which reportedly occurred on March 29, according to sources who couldn't be named because they aren't officially part of the Academy's public communications team.

One source says the seniors remaining at the academy have been threatened with punishment for violating social distancing directives. It's unclear what, if any, counseling and guidance were provided to the cadets in how to cope with isolation.

It's also unclear if Gens. Goldfein and Raymond will order an investigation of the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them.

The Indy has reached out to the Academy and will update when we hear back.

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