The lone cadet to die in a violent rollover crash near the U.S. Military Academy in West Point that hurt nearly two dozen others, including two U.S. Army soldiers, has been identified as 22-year-old Christopher Morgan from New Jersey.
Morgan, a law and legal studies major and recruited athlete who was a standout member of the Army wrestling team, died at the scene of Thursday's accident, West Point said Friday. He lived in West Orange and would have graduated from the U.S. Military Academy next year.
"Cadet Morgan was a valued member of the Corps of Cadets and will be missed by all," Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, 60th Superintendent, U. S. Military Academy, said in a statement. "The entire community is ensuring that our cadets are being cared for physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Morgan family."
West Point's wrestling coach described Morgan as a "talented, hardworking and determined athlete who loved his sport."
"Chris had an infectious personality with a smile big enough to fill any room, and a heart big enough to love everyone around him," coach Kevin Ward said. "He made everyone around him better and he will be greatly missed.
A vigil to honor Morgan is planned for Friday night, while a memorial ceremony for the West Point community and private funeral service will be held at the academy next week, West Point said.
Morgan was among 19 cadets being driven by two U.S. Army soldiers early Thursday when their 2.5-ton tactical vehicle somehow veered off Route 293 and rolled over, ending upside-down in a thickly wooded area, around 6:45 a.m. They were heading out as part of a routine training exercise, and officials weren't able to provide any additional details Thursday afternoon on how the accident may have happened. The investigation is ongoing.
The injured were taken to local hospitals; military personnel said injuries ranged from a facial abrasion to a broken arm, and all were expected to be OK.
Chopper 4 provided a first aerial view of the accident site, which was heavily obscured. The military vehicle was barely visible through the heavy tree cover, but it was clearly flipped, its undercarriage and wheels facing the sky.
The accident fell on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, as New York state honored about a hundred World War II veterans during a ceremony on Long Island.
Gov. Cuomo called the timing of the deadly accident especially heart-wrenching.
"My heart breaks for all those involved in the tragic training accident at West Point this morning. These courageous cadets and soldiers represent the best of New York State and our country, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their bravery in choosing to serve our country and protect our freedoms," he said. "On behalf of all New Yorkers, we pray for a speedy recovery for those involved and we share in the sorrow experienced by their loved ones during this extremely difficult time."
President Donald Trump also acknowledged the tragedy, tweeting later Thursday, "So sorry to hear about the terrible accident involving our GREAT West Point Cadets. We mourn the loss of life and pray for the injured. God Bless them ALL!"