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Second Fort Hood soldier dies at nearby lake

Fort Hood officials have identified a soldier assigned to the central Texas installation whose body was recovered on Sunday after a boating accident the day before.

The body of Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandez-Vargas, 24, was recovered at Stillhouse Hollow Lake, roughly 15 miles from Fort Hood. Post officials said Hernandez-Vargas’ unit is cooperating with local authorities in an investigation that’s currently underway.

A search for the soldier began after the Bell County Sheriff’s Department was told that a man went underwater while riding an inner tube behind a boat and did not resurface.

Another soldier assigned to the same unit, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, also died at Stillhouse Hollow Lake last month.

Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, was found dead just after midnight on July 17 after fishermen in a boat spotted his body in the water at the base of the lake’s dam. A preliminary autopsy shows the cause of death to be consistent with drowning, according to the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.

Army officials have not released further information about Morta’s death. There is no indication that the two deaths are related.

Hernandez-Vargas’ home of record is listed as Woodside, New York. He entered the Army in May 2017 as an automatic rifleman and has been assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, since December 2017.

Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, the deceased soldier’s battalion commander, said in a statement that the unit is “heartbroken” over the loss and offered condolences to Hernandez-Vargas’ family and friends.

“Specialist Hernandezvargas served his country honorably both stateside while at Fort Hood and abroad in Korea and Romania and this tragic loss is felt by every member within our formation,” Armstrong added.

There have been eight soldiers who died on or near Fort Hood this year. Five of the deaths have been publicly linked to foul play. There are roughly 45,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood.

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