Parachuting mishap kills local Navy SEAL

March 9, 2008 6:36:16 AM PDT
A Navy SEAL who died during parachute training in Arizona was identified Saturday as an 11-year veteran of the special warfare force from Pennsylvania.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Lance M. Vaccaro, 35, of Reading, Pa., died Thursday while undergoing training near Marana, Ariz., according to Cmdr. Greg Geisen, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.

He was the second SEAL to die in the past month during parachute training at the base south of Phoenix. The Navy suspended training at the Marana facility and initiated a safety stand-down after Vaccaro's death.

"Chief Lance Vaccaro was an outstanding SEAL, a combat tested leader, and a great American," the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan, said in a statement. "His tragic death reminds us of the dangers that he and his teammates embrace daily, in training or in combat, so that all Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits of freedom."

Vaccaro joined the Navy in 1991 and entered SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., in 1996. He had been assigned to a SEAL team based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach, Va. since June 1997.

Although the Navy did not specify his combat experience, he had been awarded campaign medals for service in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and held two combat action ribbons, among other awards and decorations.

The Navy did not release information on survivors.

The circumstances of the two parachute training deaths do not appear similar, Geisen said. Both are under investigation.

Thomas J. Valentine, a 37-year-old special warfare operator senior chief from Ham Lake, Minn., was killed Feb. 13 during free-fall training near Marana. Valentine's body was found at the Mission Royale Golf Course, about 30 miles south of Phoenix.

The Navy has about 2,300 SEALS, known for their elite special operations training and missions, based at Little Creek and Coronado.

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