Navy doctor's death at Guantanamo Bay disclosed 10 months after fact

Pentagon offers no details, calls it `noncombat related'

February 23, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MIAMI - Ten months after the fact, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday the death of a Navy doctor at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon spokesmen would not explain the circumstances surrounding the death of Cmdr. Adrian Basil Szwec, 43, of Chicago, a 19-year career naval medical officer who died at the base April 12.

An announcement described Szwec's death only as "a noncombat related incident."

Szwec's death was still under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a Navy spokeswoman said at the Pentagon, declining to be identified.

It took the Navy 10 months to make the announcement because the Armed Forces Medical Examiner only recently categorized his death as connected to the war on terror, the spokeswoman said, declining to reveal further details.

Szwec had been assigned to the Navy Hospital at Guantanamo since September 2002. He had previously served at the Navy Medical Center in San Diego, Calif.

The Pentagon announcement said he died "supporting Operation Enduring Freedom" - the Pentagon's name for the Afghanistan theater in the war on terror. Guantanamo houses the detainment facility where the U.S. military holds and interrogates about 540 suspected terrorists.

The Navy commander is the first naval officer and at least the fourth service member to die at the base since the prison was set up three years ago.

The others:

Army Master Sgt. Herbert Claunch, 58, of Wetumpka, Ala., died April 18 - six days after Szwec - after he collapsed on the floor in his quarters near the prison. He was assigned to an Alabama National Guard military police unit.

Army Sgt. Theodore L. Perreault, 33, of Webster, Mass., shot himself and died Dec. 23, 2003. He was assigned to a Massachusetts National Guard infantry unit that guarded the prison.

Army Sgt. Ryan Foraker, 31, of Logan, Ohio, died Sept. 24, 2002. Military investigators found his clothing, but not his remains, near a base beach. His death was ruled an accident.

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