Navy SEAL killed in free-fall parachute training accident in Arizona

A US Navy SEAL has died following a free-fall parachute training exercise accident in Arizona, according to reports.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael Ernst was taken to Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix Sunday, where he was pronounced dead following the tragic training mishap at an airfield in Marana, according to a statement from the Naval Special Warfare Command to Fox News.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, and the Navy said it would be “inappropriate” to further comment on the tragedy until a report is completed.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ernst family,” Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the leader of Naval Special Warfare Command, said.

Ernst was attached to a Naval Special Warfare East Coast-based unit during the time of the accident.

Naval Special Warfare community operators regularly train in free-falling techniques and usually perform these maneuvers at high altitudes, with a low opening called “HALO.” 

Naval Special Warfare operator parachutes out of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during a training evolution.
A Naval Special Warfare operator parachutes out of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during a training evolution.
U.S. Navy

Ernst joined the Navy in August 2009 and would join the SEAL community three years later.

During his military tenure, Enrst was awarded a Silver Star — the third highest award for valor a military member can receive for gallantry during combat, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and three Combat Action Ribbons — having been in combat situations in three different theaters of war.

“Mike was an exceptional teammate. He was a dedicated NSW Sailor who applied his talents and skills towards some of our nation’s hardest challenges, while selflessly mentoring his teammates,” Adm. Keith Davids said.

Ernst leaves behind his wife and two children, ages 5 and 2.

The death of Ernst marks the 4th training-related death for the Navy in the last 14 months, according to

Electronics Technician 1st Class Ryan DeKorte died in May of 2022 from injuries sustained during a helicopter landing incident near Norfolk, Virginia.

In February 2022, Seaman Kyle Mullen died after completing Navy Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, which sparked a series of investigations into recruits attempting SEAL training not being given the medical care needed and/or being discouraged from asking for care if needed.

The commanding officer of SEAL Team 8, Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, died during a fast-rope training evolution in Virginia Beach on December 2021.

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