A soldier who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was quarantining at his home near Baumholder, Germany, died Dec. 9 after his wife attempted to bring him to the hospital when his condition worsened, according to U.S. Army Europe and local news reports.
Staff Sgt. Setariki Korovakaturaga, 43, was assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, at the time of his death and is the first soldier assigned to Army Europe to die of COVID-19, according to the command. A sergeant at the time of his death, Korovakaturaga was posthumouly promoted.
A review of previous news reports shows Korovakaturaga is also the first known active duty Army death from the virus.
Korovakaturaga had “previously tested positive for COVID-19 and was at home on quarantine when he began experiencing increased symptoms,” a statement from his command reads. “He died en route to the hospital.”
A memorial service is scheduled for Korovakaturaga Thursday, the command said in a statement. Officials did not state whether he had any underlying medical conditions.
“We were shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of Staff Sergeant Setariki Korovakaturaga last week. He was a tremendous Soldier and teammate in our unit,” Lt. Col. Jason Kendzierski, 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion commander, said in a prepared statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children,” Kendzierski added. “The outpouring of support from the community has been heartwarming and is indicative of how much he will be missed throughout the formation and community.”
Korovakaturaga’s wife was driving him to the hospital Dec. 9 when he had trouble breathing and collapsed in the passenger seat, Bernhard Erfort, a spokesman for the local German police told Stars and Stripes.
German first responders attempted to revive Korovakaturaga and a helicopter was brought in to airlift him the rest of the way to the hospital, but the soldier died at the scene, the police spokesman said.
Germany has reported a record level of COVID-19 deaths and the country has instituted greater restrictions in recent days, according to the Associated Press.
Defense Department figures show that 14 service members have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a fraction of the 93,003 cases reported among troops and 874 hospitalizations. Nine dependents have also died of the virus.
The Army has been the hardest hit armed service in terms of infections, with 33,857 as of Wednesday, as well as the most deaths. Six Army reservists and three Army National Guardsmen have died after contracting COVID-19.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer