HOUSTON – The wife of an Army officer serving in Afghanistan witnessed her husband’s death as the two video chatted via Skype, his family said Friday.
The circumstances of Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark’s death were not immediately available. The Pentagon said it was under investigation, and his brother-in-law said he didn’t have details.
“We are entrusting the military with investigating and with finding out what happened to Capt. Clark,” Bradley Taber-Thomas told The Associated Press.
Clark, a 43-year-old Army chief nurse, grew up in Michigan and lived previously in Spencerport, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester and his wife’s hometown. He joined the Army in 2006 and was stationed in Hawaii before he was assigned to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. He deployed to Afghanistan in March.
A statement from the family released by Taber-Thomas said Clark died Monday while talking to his wife during one of their regular Skype sessions.
“At the time of the incident, the family was hoping for a rescue and miracle, but later learned that it was not to be,” the statement said. “Although the circumstances were unimaginable, Bruce’s wife and extended family will be forever thankful that he and his wife were together in his last moments.”
Clark’s body was returned Thursday to Dover Air Force Base.
A funeral is planned in Spencerport, but details were not immediately available. Clark and his wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, moved there in 2000. While living there, he worked for about four years at Highland Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., first as an operating room assistant then operating room technician.
“He was a friendly guy, always joking, always picking on me because of my (British) accent,” said Ellie Villanueva, a nurse who worked with Clark at the hospital and kept in touch with him after he left. They spoke a few days before his death, and he talked about coming for a visit. “After work, we would all go out. It was like a family. He was my son.”
Clark was an EMT before he worked at the hospital. He went on to earn his nursing degree and planned to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, Villanueva said.
“He was always willing and always wanting to better himself,” she said.
Military records show Clark finished his nursing degree before joining the military in 2006.
He received a number of awards and decorations for his service.
“When you were in Bruce’s presence it was apparent he served a higher purpose,” the family’s statement said. “He was deeply honored to serve his country, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice to serve people, his children, family, community, and church.”
A memorial service also was planned in Addison, Mich., where Clark graduated from high school.
Villanueva said the delay in releasing the cause of Clark’s death was difficult on those who knew him.
“Why is it taking so long? It’s odd,” she said. “It’s a real shame.”
Clark is survived by his wife and two daughters, age 3 and 9, he said.