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Phoenix-area soldier among 3 killed in weekend Army training accident

PHOENIX – One of the three U.S. Army soldiers killed in a training accident at a Georgia military base over the weekend was from the Phoenix area, authorities said Monday.

Pfc. Antonio Garcia of Peoria and two others died when an armored vehicle rolled off a bridge and landed upside down in the water below at Fort Stewart early Sunday morning. Garcia joined the Army last year.

Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Jenkins of Gainesville, Florida, and Cpl. Thomas Walker of Conneaut, Ohio, were also killed when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle they were in rolled over just before 3:30 a.m.

Three other soldiers inside the vehicle were injured. Two were treated and released and the third was hospitalized with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

They were assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the Fort Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Aguto struggled to hold back tears during a press conference Monday, when he identified the soldiers who died. He gave no other details about the crash, citing an active investigation.

“It is hard enough when you lose one soldier,” Aguto said. “But when you lose three at one time, that pain is amplified. And we are really feeling and sharing that pain.”

Officials said Sunday a team from the Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, was investigating the accident.

The training exercise being conducted early Sunday had been planned and rehearsed ahead of time, Aguto said. And while the remnants of Tropical Storm Nestor swept across southeast Georgia late Saturday and early Sunday, Aguto said there had been no severe weather warnings and the storm’s rain and winds had already passed before the crash occurred.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags to half-staff at all state buildings on Tuesday to honor Garcia. Flags will also be lowered on the day of Garcia’s burial.

At least 12 Army soldiers have died in nine training accidents across the U.S. in 2019, including the crash Sunday at Fort Stewart, according to the Army Combat Readiness Center, which investigates fatal accidents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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