Two members of the FBI’s elite counterterrorism unit died Friday while practicing how to quickly drop from a helicopter to a ship using a rope, the FBI announced Monday in a statement.
The statement gave few details regarding the deaths of Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, other than to say the helicopter encountered unspecified difficulties and the agents fell a “significant distance.”
Last month, the team was involved in the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. And in February, it rescued a 5-year-old boy held hostage for six days in an underground bunker in Alabama.
“Whenever things go really wrong, the FBI calls in the Hostage Rescue Team. It’s the government’s 911,” Coulson said.
Irvin Wells, a former FBI special agent who retired in 1990 after leading the Norfolk field office for three years, stressed that the Hostage Rescue Team is different from the FBI’s regular SWAT teams. He noted that agents assigned to a field office’s SWAT team also must perform other jobs inside the bureau, while agents assigned to the Hostage Rescue Team have no other duties.