It is with great sadness that I inform you of the tragic loss of two of our shipmates. LT Jessica Hill of St. Augustine, Florida, and BM2 Steven Duque of Miami, Florida, lost their lives in the line of duty while conducting diving operations from CGC HEALY during an icebreaking mission approximately 600 miles Northwest of Barrow, Alaska. Despite all efforts by the crew of HEALY, they could not be revived after being rescued from the water in distress.
Our highest priority now is to fully support the family, friends and shipmates of LT Hill and BM2 Duque during this difficult time. Both members were single without children, and their respective family members have been notified. I have directed the District and Area commanders to provide whatever support services are necessary for the families and crew of HEALY. HEALY is returning to Barrow where we will be better able to assist them. Two concurrent investigations will be conducted to help determine the circumstances surrounding this accident.
In my conversation with HEALY’s commanding officer, CAPT Doug Russell, this afternoon, I expressed my personal condolences to him and his crew and pledged my support for them while they deal with this loss. CAPT Russell spoke proudly of LT Hill and BM2 Duque. LT Hill was on her second Coast Guard tour serving as the Marine Science Officer aboard HEALY. She was a graduate of University of Western Alabama. BM2 Duque enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2002, and served both afloat and ashore prior to being assigned as one of HEALY’s divers.
This loss is a reminder to all of us that we operate in a hazardous environment and must remain vigilant. It also reminds us that Coast Guard men and women serve our Nation proudly across the reaches of the globe to preserve and protect our national maritime safety, security and stewardship interests. LT Hill and BM2 Duque made the ultimate sacrifice. We are proud of their selfless service and honor them by our continued dedication to the important work we do for the American people.
Please join Secretary Chertoff, me, and all who serve in uniform in taking a moment today to reflect on the loss of these two brave and heroic members of our Coast Guard family in whatever way you find most appropriate. Please keep their families, friends and shipmates in your thoughts and prayers in the days to come. Details on memorial services and how you can express your condolences to the families of LT Hill and BM2 Duque will be provided when available.
Admiral Thad Allen
45 minutes ago