2 F.B.I. Hostage Rescue Agents Die in Training Exercise at Sea
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: May 20, 2013
It was a counterterrorism training exercise that the two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite hostage rescue unit had completed dozens of times before: rappelling from a helicopter onto the deck of a ship at sea.
But as Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw began their descent on Friday onto a ship roughly a dozen miles off the coast of Virginia, the helicopter suddenly tilted because of a strong gust of wind. As the pilot tried to steady the aircraft, the two men, holding onto the ropes and loaded down with gear, lost their grips and fell.
By the time they were rescued from the water, one of them was dead. The other died soon after.
Over the years, the unit, which has a little fewer than 100 agents, has responded to roughly 850 episodes, including the bombings at the Boston Marathon last month. In that instance, agents from the unit were sent from Quantico after the attacks to deal with finding other explosives in the city. They have also responded to episodes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hostage rescue team is part of the bureau’s Critical Incident Response Group, a militarylike unit that is “ready to deploy anytime, anywhere” to crises like hostage rescues and terrorist attacks. Its agents often wear uniforms similar to soldiers and carry high-powered assault rifles. The most prominent photo on the F.B.I.’s Web site for the group shows two armed agents hanging off the side of a flying helicopter.