Navy inquiry continues into death at academy

Midshipman's body found after apparent fall from 4th-floor dorm window

August 20, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service continued yesterday to probe the death of a 20-year-old Naval Academy midshipman who apparently suffered a fatal fall from his fourth-floor dormitory window.

The body of Midshipman 2nd Class John Paul Ruggiero, an aerospace engineering major from Gouldsboro, Pa., was found about 7:15 a.m. Sunday on the ground directly below his window in Bancroft Hall.

The NCIS is a federal law enforcement agency that serves the Navy and Marine Corps, said Cmdr. Bill Spann, a Naval Academy spokesman. Spann said it is standard procedure for the NCIS to investigate all nonmedical, unattended deaths at a naval facility.

An autopsy is being performed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville.

Spann said it appears that Ruggiero's death was accidental, but he said he could not discuss any aspect of the investigation.

"I can tell you that his death was a great loss to the brigade," Spann said. "He was an excellent student in one of our most difficult majors."

He said the academy will schedule a memorial service for Ruggiero this week.

According to a statement released by the Naval Academy, the individuals who discovered Ruggiero's body called for help, after they found that he had no pulse. Spann said Ruggiero, who had two roommates, appeared to have been dead for "some period of time," and that his injuries were consistent with a fall. He declined to comment further on who found the body.

Spann said that the windows in Bancroft Hall, which houses all of the academy's approximately 4,000 midshipmen, have screens.

Falls from the dormitory are an unusual occurrence. Two years ago, when an academy freshman was injured in a fall from a first-story window, officials said it was the first time in many years - if ever - that it had happened. They said the windows in the rooms have small, square openings.

Ruggiero played intramural sports and had been in the drum and bugle corps. The midshipman, who would have turned 21 Sept. 17 and planned to attend flight school after his 2004 graduation, returned to the academy Friday night after a week at sea.

Classes began yesterday at the Naval Academy, as scheduled, but a First Night celebration planned for Sunday night was canceled because of Ruggiero's death, Spann said. The event typically includes athletic activities, entertainment and information about alcohol- and drug-free events at the academy.

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