Coroner: Ft. Jackson soldier died of complications from heat stroke

Published: Aug. 20, 2009 at 5:21 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2009 at 3:51 AM EDT
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By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Fort Jackson soldier died early Thursday after participating in some military training.

Officials say 18-year-old Pvt. Jonathan Morales, of Milwaukee, Wis., died shortly after 4am Thursday morning at Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital.

He was a standout in wrestling and football at his high school in Milwaukee who went by the nickname "J-Smooth."

But a combination of southern heat and tough military training was too much for Private Jonathan Morales. During an eight-mile march Wednesday night, Morales began having trouble keeping up.

He was placed in the back of a truck as the exercise neared its end. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says Morales fell out of the truck, hitting his head.

"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," said Watts. "They went back around and found him maybe a quarter, half of a mile from where they had finished up on the roadway. He had fallen out of the vehicle."

"He had significant injuries, head injuries," said Watts. "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 Richland Memorial and had been placed at some point in time under a cooling blanket, was in excess of 106 degrees."

The incident marks the first training-related death this year at Fort Jackson, and the fourth over the last two years. Morales' death remains under investigation by the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and an internal Fort Jackson appointed Ground Accident Investigation Board.

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