Jason M. Butler, 22, Navy seaman, dies after fall from aircraft carrier

May 24, 1998|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

Seaman Jason Michael Butler, who played lacrosse and football for Calvert Hall College, died Monday after plunging from the aircraft carrier USS Independence while the ship was docked in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He was 22.

He had been stationed on the Independence, based in Yokosuka, Japan, since October 1995.

Mr. Butler's father, Dennis Butler, said his son had been having difficulty sleeping on the ship and suffered a panic attack about 5 a.m. Monday after he was refused permission to leave the docked vessel. He became disoriented and fell or jumped over the side of the ship, striking his head on the pier, his father said.

Seaman Butler was born in Concord, Mass., and moved to Baltimore with his family as a child. He attended Calvert Hall in Towson and the Severn School in Severna Park, where his family lives, before graduating from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia in 1995.

Dennis Butler said his son suffered from a learning disability and was having difficulty coping in the confined and crowded environment aboard ship. For several months, Seaman Butler had been seeking a medical discharge, his father said.

"Jason was pleading for someone to listen," he said. "He couldn't function, and as much as he loved the service, I think he realized that he had made a mistake and it wasn't for him."

A Navy spokeswoman could not confirm yesterday the details of Seaman Butler's death or his attempt to obtain a medical discharge.

At Calvert Hall, Seaman Butler had excelled on the lacrosse and football fields, where Athletic Director Lou Eckerls remembered him as "quiet, intense, a good athlete."

The father recalled that athletics helped his son overcome the emotionally debilitating effects of a pronounced and lifelong learning disability that made processing information difficult for him, despite his intelligence.

Seaman Butler also loved to draw and paint, often producing abstract works and renderings of football and lacrosse players, his father said.

He is also survived by his mother, Shirley Butler; a sister, Lauren Butler of Severna Park; his grandparents, Arlene and James Bickings of Camp Springs and Dorothy Oettle of Chester.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Severna Park United Methodist Church, 731 Benfield Road.

Pub Date: 5/24/98

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