Rachel Jones and Lucas Smolcic Larson
The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)
The Friday death of a Marine recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island is tragic but not unprecedented.
Pfc. Dalton Beals died while completing “the Crucible,” a grueling 54-hour exercise that caps off Parris Island’s 13-week training program and ends in a 9-mile hike.
The cause of Beals’ death is “under investigation,” according to Staff Sgt. Anne Henry.
Since 2000, at least seven Marines have died during training at Parris Island, one of two Marine training depots in the nation:
— On Nov. 18, 2004, 18-year-old Bret Moran died in his sleep while completing the Crucible one month after contracting pneumonia. A Marine Corps autopsy found that he died of natural causes, namely a weakened heart muscle.
— On Feb. 8, 2005, 19-year-old Jason Tharp died after struggling to pass a combat water survival test in a pool. Later that year, his staff sergeant was acquitted of negligent homicide.
— On Sept. 9, 2006, Adam Aube of Brunswick, Maine, died on the way to the hospital after participating in an initial strength exam designed to test recruits’ basic physical readiness for training.
— On Feb. 15, 2011, 19-year-old recruit Keerica Allen of Atlanta died at Charleston’s Medical University of South Carolina due to complications from a suspected case of meningitis.
— On March 18, 2016, Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, fell to his death while running away from an instructor at the depot a week after his arrival and five days after he told instructors there that he was having suicidal thoughts. Siddiqui’s drill instructor then-Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, was convicted of hazing and abusing Siddiqui and other Muslim recruits; he was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017. Felix’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, later pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty, among other charges. The story of Siddiqui’s treatment at Parris Island and subsequent death is being used as “source material” for an upcoming TV series.
— On Nov. 4, 2016, Zachary R. Boland, 18, of Madison, Alabama, was pronounced dead at Beaufort Memorial Hospital after being found unconscious in his bed after 8 p.m. A Marine Corps investigation found Boland died due to complications from pneumonia after concealing his illness from drill instructors to avoid being dropped from training.
At least one drill instructor has died while stationed at Parris Island. On June 5, 2014, Staff Sgt. Hugo O. Espinoza, 31, was found dead in base housing just about one year after he became a drill instructor for the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. No foul play was suspected.
And at least one recruit sustained “serious brain damage” during boot camp. On Oct. 28, 2016, Kristian Gashaj, an 18-year-old from Sterling Heights, Michigan, fell two stories inside the depot’s recruit processing center and was in a coma while being treated at MUSC in Charleston. He died in 2019, according to an obituary that did not list his cause of death.
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