Local News

Special Forces soldier killed by snake bites

Posted September 17, 2008 12:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT

— A Special Forces trainee died of multiple bites from a water moccasin during field training in June, Army officials said Wednesday.

Pfc. Norman M. Murburg, 20, was conducting the individual land navigation exercise in Hoffman training area, near Camp Mackall, on June 9 as a part of the Special Forces Assessment and Selection process conducted by the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, officials said.

Murburg reached the first point along the course but failed to check in at the next point or the assembly point at the end of the exercise, officials said.

Ben Abel, a spokesman at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School, said his body was found the next day, along with all of his personal equipment, including water and emergency equipment.

An autopsy ruled out heat or dehydration as a cause of death and determined a cottonmouth moccasin – one of six venomous snakes in North Carolina – bit Murburg.

Its bite destroys tissue and is fatal without medical intervention. Symptoms include extreme swelling, burred vision and vomiting.

Abel said Special Forces training includes wildlife safety, including identifying snakes. But, he said, "you're not always going to be aware of 100 percent of everything around you."

Nearly 500 soldiers spent 21 hours searching for Murburg, Abel said. None of his emergency devices, including a high-frequency radio tracker, had been activated.

“Pfc. Murburg’s death reinforces the dangerous nature of the training that our soldiers undertake to prepare themselves for the rigors of Special Forces,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, commander of the Kennedy Special Warfare Center, said in a statement.

“We go out of our way to stress safety in all that we do, but there are some circumstances that are out of our control.”