Fort Hood soldier drowns; 4th from base dead in months

BELTON, Texas (AP) — U.S. Army officials said Tuesday that a Fort Hood soldier drowned at the same lake near the Texas base where another soldier's body was found last month.

The body of Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas, 24, was recovered Sunday after he went underwater while being pulled on an inner tube behind a motorboat on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, according to Fort Hood officials. Base officials confirmed Hernandezvargas' identity Tuesday.

Bell County sheriff's deputies are investigating the drowning.

Fort Hood officials say they are cooperating with local authorities. Officials have not said whether they suspect foul play.

Hernandezvargas, of New York, entered the army in May 2017 as an automatic rifleman, according to the Army. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division since December 2017. Besides Fort Hood, he served in Korea and Romania.

Hernandezvargas is at least the fourth Fort Hood soldier whose body has been found in recent months. There is no indication that any of the deaths are related.

On June 21, officials authorities discovered skeletal remains in a field in Killeen, near Fort Hood, which were subsequently identified as 24-year-old missing soldier Gregory Morales. U.S. Army officials suspect foul play in his death.

The body of Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, who officials said drowned, was found July 17 at Stillhouse Hollow Lake .

Human remains found July 1 near the Leon River in Bell County, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Fort Hood, were later identified as missing soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. According to a federal complaint, the 20-year-old was bludgeoned to death at the base by a fellow Fort Hood soldier who later killed himself.

Guillen’s family has said she was sexually harassed by the soldier suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence supporting the claim. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy on July 10 ordered a review of the command climate at Fort Hood.

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Acacia Coronado reported from Austin, Texas. She is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.