Army Captain ‘Knocked Forward’ During Skype Chat, Wife Says
By the CNN Wire Staff
The wife of a U.S. Army captain in Afghanistan watched a live link for two hours of her husband slumped over a computer keyboard with a bullet hole in a closet behind him as she tried to summon help for him, she said.
The account by Susan Orellana-Clark offers new details about what she saw happen some 7,500 miles away, while raising fresh questions as to how he died and why, according to her, it took two hours for anyone to come to his aid.
Orellana-Clark, in a statement released Sunday, recounted the details surrounding the death of her husband, Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark, who died April 30 at Tarin Kowt, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) north of Kandahar.
She said the two were chatting on Skype, and there was no sign that he was in any discomfort, “nor did he indicate any alarm.”
“Then CPT Clark was suddenly knocked forward,” the statement said. “The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it.”
Orellana-Clark said several other people — one of them a member of the military — who rushed to her home after she called for help saw the hole in the closet and agreed it was a bullet hole.
“After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room (in Afghanistan) and appeared to check (Clark’s) pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife,” the statement said.
Orellana-Clark was releasing details “to honor my husband and dispel the inaccurate information and supposition promulgated by other parties.”
Two U.S. military officials with knowledge of the investigation conducted in Afghanistan confirmed that it took two hours from the time Clark collapsed while on Skype with his wife to when military personnel responded.
They explained part of the issue was that the wife’s request was routed through several commands in the United States before it was relayed to Afghanistan.
Clark was assigned to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, but deployed with a medical unit from Fort Hood.
No wounds were found on Clark’s body, according to one of the officials, who said the death has been determined to be “non-combat” and suicide has been ruled out as a cause.
An official determination of cause of death is pending autopsy and toxicology results, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.
The official could not reconcile Orellana-Clark’s account with the ongoing investigation.
Clarence Davis, a spokesman for the Beaumont Army Medical, said Friday that it had not been determined how Clark died. A call to the medical center Sunday was not immediately returned.
In addition to his wife, Clark is survived by two daughters.
Known by many as Kevin, Clark was a chief nurse in the Army who amassed many honors in his military career, according to his family. Those include an Army Commendation Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service Medal.
The longtime resident of Spencerport, New York, joined the Army in September 2006 and served, among other places, at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, according to a Beaumont Army Medical Center statement. More recently, he was based at that medical facility in southwest Texas and assigned to the Army’s A Company, Troop Command.
“He loved being in the military,” his sister-in-law Mariana Barry told CNN affiliate WHAM in upstate New York. “He was absolutely willing to make any sacrifice, and it’s just horrible that this is the sacrifice he ended up making.”
His commander described Clark, 43, as “awesome,” “professional” and “a great asset, leader and friend,” the family said.
After his death, special operations troops from the United States and Australia lined up to give him his final send-off from Afghanistan.
On Thursday, his casket was wrapped in an American flag as it was transported off a military plane onto the tarmac of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the U.S. Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation.
While no dates have been given, the family said that Clark’s funeral will be in Spencerport and a memorial service will be held in Addison, Michigan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff Monday in Clark’s honor, as he’s done with other troops from the state who have died in combat zones.
— CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.