U.S. Military Academy officials were investigating Friday how an apparently healthy, athletic 18-year-old West Point cadet died during a land navigation exercise.
Cadet Jacob D. Bower of Fairmont, W.Va., was found unresponsive Thursday by fellow cadets in a largely wooded area used for training. Attempts to revive Bower were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at 6:05 p.m.
The incident and cause of death are under investigation. Temperatures in the Hudson Valley were in the 90s Thursday, but West Point's Lt. Col. Sherri Reed said it was not clear if high temperatures were a factor.
A type of bone cyst in Bower's pelvis was surgically removed last year but the cadet had fully recovered and there were no other health problems, his father, Dean Bower, told The Associated Press. He had passed all of the academy's physical tests and received clearance from the surgeon who removed the cyst, the father said.
"He was just in incredible shape," his father said. "He lifted weights all the time. He ran. He just trained for this like a fiend, running with backpacks on for months before going in there."
Bower said his son, who was the valedictorian of East Fairmont High School's Class of 2011, wanted to become an officer and an orthopedic surgeon.
"Ever since he's been young he's wanted to go to the Military Academy and serve his country," he said.
Dean Bower said letters the family had received from the storied academy on New York's Hudson River said Jacob was doing well.
"We don't know what really happened," he said. "We just have to wait on the autopsy results."
Bower's uncle, Mark Bower of Fairmont, told The Associated Press his nephew excelled at any sport he played and wanted to help people.
"He was a very high role model," Mark Bower said.
The land navigation exercise requires cadets carrying a compass to find points in the wooded area around West Point. The exercise does not require a full pack and it was not clear what kind of pace Bower was keeping, Reed said.
Bower entered the academy this summer. He had completed the first three weeks of cadet basic training, the six-week summer shakedown sometimes called "beast barracks" that all incoming cadets go through. The land navigation exercise was part of the second half of basic training.
Cadet Bower was a three-sport athlete and a member of the National Honor Society while attending East Fairmont High School.
"Everyone just loved him," his father said. "It's a shock to everyone, just an absolute shock."