Monday, 7 May 2012

Nurse in Afghanistan dies during Skype chat with wife

HOUSTON — The wife of an Army nurse serving in Afghanistan witnessed her husband's death as the two video chatted via Skype, his family said Friday.

The circumstances of Beaumont Army Medical Center Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark's death were not immediately available. Pentagon officials said it was under investigation.

But the El Paso Times, quoting Beaumont spokesman Clarence Davis, said Clark was not injured during combat. The death "wasn't a result of hostile action," Davis said. "He was not wounded."

Clark's brother-in-law said Friday that he didn't have details of the death. "We are entrusting the military with investigating and with finding out what happened to Capt. Clark," Bradley Taber-Thomas said.

Clark, 43, an Army chief nurse, grew up in Michigan and lived previously in Spencerport, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester and his wife's hometown. He joined the Army in 2006 and was stationed in Hawaii before he was assigned to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. He deployed to Afghanistan in March.

A statement from the family released by Taber-Thomas said Clark died Monday while talking to his wife, who was in El Paso, during one of their regular Skype sessions. Clark was in Tarin Kowt, in Uruzgan province, in southern Afghanistan.

A family statement deepened the mystery about Clark's death. "At the time of the incident, the family was hoping for a rescue and miracle, but later learned that it was not to be," the statement said. "Although the circumstances were unimaginable, Bruce's wife and extended family will be forever thankful that he and his wife were together in his last moments."

Clark's body was returned Thursday to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

A funeral is planned in Spencerport, where Clark and his wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, moved in 2000. While there, he worked for about four years at Highland Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., first as an operating-room assistant and then as an operating-room technician.

"He was a friendly guy, always joking, always picking on me because of my (British) accent," said Ellie Villanueva, a nurse who worked with Clark at the hospital and kept in touch with him after he left. They spoke a few days before his death, and he talked about coming for a visit. "After work, we would all go out. It was like a family. He was my son."

Clark was an emergency medical technician before he worked at the hospital. He went on to earn his nursing degree and planned to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, Villanueva said.

Military records show Clark finished his nursing degree before joining the military in 2006.

He received a number of awards and decorations for his service.

Villanueva said the delay in releasing the cause of Clark's death was difficult on those who knew him. "Why is it taking so long?" she asked.

Clark is survived by his wife and two daughters, age 3 and 9.


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