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Marines Investigating Recruit's Death

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2005 – The Marine Corps is investigating the circumstances surrounding the Feb. 8 death of a male recruit who was undergoing boot camp training at Parris Island, S.C.

Recruit Jason Tharp, 19, was undergoing combat water survival training in an installation swimming pool when instructors noticed something was wrong, said Marine Capt. Jamie Nott, deputy public affairs officer at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

Instructors on the scene immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Tharp, who was taken by ambulance to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Nott said. Tharp was in his fifth week of the 12-week boot camp program.

The incident has received national attention. Nott said a local civilian television crew had videotaped what appeared to be a Marine instructor grabbing Tharp poolside the day before the recruit died. If such an event had occurred, Nott noted, it would be a violation of boot camp training rules.

And during a segment of NBC's "Today" show Feb. 21, the deceased recruit's parents called for all of the facts related to their son's death.

Parris Island authorities, Nott said, launched two investigations into the incident immediately after Tharp died. One, he said, is being conducted by the local staff judge advocate's office to determine if there's been a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He said the other probe is checking to see if any training rules were broken.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Nott added, also is conducting a probe looking for potential criminal wrongdoing.

So far, four military instructors have been suspended from duty pending the outcome of the investigations, while another servicemember has been assigned to other duties.

Autopsy results aren't yet available, Nott said, adding that it would take 20 to 60 days for the three investigations to be completed.

Nott said the Marine Corps offers condolences to the Tharp family, which has "suffered a tragic and irreplaceable loss." The Marines, he emphasized, don't mistreat their troops or recruits.

"We're in the people business," the captain asserted. "People "are our greatest asset in the Marine Corps." And the Marines, he promised, "are not going to stop" until they find out why Tharp died.

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Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island

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