WEST POINT, N.Y. — The 22-year-old cadet killed in a vehicle rollover during a summer training exercise was identified by the U.S. Military Academy on Friday as a standout wrestler who was studying law.
Cadet Christopher J. Morgan of West Orange, New Jersey, died at the scene after a tactical vehicle carrying cadets overturned in wooded terrain Thursday morning. Nineteen cadets and two soldiers operating the vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries. All had been treated and released by Friday, according to the academy.
West Point officials said they don’t know the cause of the crash . The investigation will include a standard probe by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, a review by a safety team from Alabama’s Fort Rucker and a re-creation of the scene aided by the New York State Police, according to West Point.
Morgan was a law and legal studies major in the Class of 2020. He was a recruited athlete and a standout member of the Army wrestling team.
On Friday, his father called his son a hero, as he held a framed photo of the cadet outside their New Jersey home.
“He was my first son. He was an inspiration to me and my family. He was my hero,” Christopher C. Morgan told the New York Post. “I miss talking to him, I miss his smile, I miss hearing about what he’s doing. No father should have to bury their child.”
His coach at West Point described the cadet as “a talented, hardworking, and determined athlete who loved his sport.”
“Chris had an infectious personality with a smile big enough to fill any room, and a heart big enough to love everyone around him. He made everyone around him better and he will be greatly missed,” wrestling coach Kevin Ward said in a West Point news release.
Morgan’s interest in the military stretches back to his time at West Orange High School, where he was part of the school’s Air Force ROTC, according to a 2015 story on the online news site TAPinto West Orange. Morgan, who also was co-captain of the school’s football team, told the news site that while he planned to wrestle at West Point, he was more interested in academics.
“I’m interested in political science, foreign affairs, and global economy,” Morgan said in 2015. “Whether or not I remain in the Army as a career officer, I want to work in Homeland Security.”
West Point cadets will hold a vigil Friday night to honor Morgan. A memorial ceremony and private funeral service will be held at the academy 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City next week.
“Cadet Morgan represented the highest and best values of New Jersey,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a news release.