PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The U.S. Army identified the three soldiers who were killed in an early Sunday morning training accident in Fort Stewart, Georgia, and one of them was from the Valley.
Pfc. Antonio Garcia, 21, from Peoria was among the six soldiers riding in a Bradley fighting vehicle on Sunday morning when it "rolled off a bridge and was submerged upside down in a stream," said Maj. Gen. Tony Aguto, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division.
Garcia and two others were killed; the three other soldiers were taken to the hospital. Two of them have been released from the hospital while the other has injuries that aren't considered life-threatening.
"As a family we are shocked and devastated by the loss of our beloved Antonio. While his time was far too short, we are so thankful and appreciative of the time we had with him. He was the most brave, kind-hearted and loving person we have had the privilege of knowing. He loved his family, friends and his country. We love him with every fiber of our beings and we will cherish and celebrate his life and carry on his memory forever. We ask that others do the same, while also respecting the privacy and space we need to heal in such a heart-breaking time," Garcia's family said in a statement.
Gov. Doug Ducey posted on Twitter that flags will be lowered at half staff on Tuesday.
"U.S. Army Pfc. Antonio Garcia served our nation honorably. He will be remembered for his commitment to duty and willingness to serve," Ducey said.
U.S. Army Pfc. Antonio Garcia served our nation honorably. He will be remembered for his commitment to duty and willingness to serve. In honor of his life and service, I’ve ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff tomorrow. https://t.co/hKc0yThU3u— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) October 22, 2019
The two other soldiers who were killed were Sgt. First Class Bryan Jenkins, 41, from Florida and Cpl. Thomas Cole, 22, from Ohio.
It's unclear if they drowned or died from the impact of the crash.
"For the family members of the three soldiers that we lost in yesterday's tragic accident, it is hard enough when you lose one soldier. But when you lose three at one time that pain is amplified. And we are really feeling and sharing that pain across the division and across the entire community," Aguto said.
The armored vehicle and soldiers are part of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Stewart.
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.
"It's a somber reminder of just how dangerous our soldiers are not only in combat but the danger they are put in in training as well," said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia.
Fort Stewart is just outside of Savannah, Georgia, and 120 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida. The 450-square-mile base is home to 18,000 soldiers and 4,000 Army civilian workers. It's responsible for training and deploying active and reserve military personnel.
So far, two rollover accidents have killed two other Army soldiers this year. In January, Specialist Octavious Lakes Jr. was killed when the Fighting Vehicle he was in rolled over during training in Fort Irwin, California. In June, 21-year-old West Point Cadet Christopher Morgan died in a rollover that injured 19 other cadets and two soldiers.
"The training is tough, realistic and we train for all sorts of conditions no matter where we would go," Aguto said. "You would expect us to do that. And that was the case in this instance."
Aguto said Fort Stewart would plan a memorial service for the soldiers who died. Jenkins recently finished his 18th year in the Army and was a veteran of two tours in Iraq.
Walker and Garcia, roughly 20 years younger, had never deployed overseas. Walker enlisted in 2016, while Garcia joined the Army last year.