Probe launched into four suicides involving carrier crew

Police in Virginia and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents are investigating the suicide deaths of four sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush—three of which occurred in a five-day span this month.

“The sailors did not serve in the same departments, and there does not appear to be a connection between their deaths,” said Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg — the spokeswoman for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic — in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

Norfolk Police began investigating the death of Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Robert John Bartulewicz III on July 16. Last week, authorities in Norfolk and Portsmouth ruled three more deaths — one on Sept. 14, two on Sept. 19 — as suicides: Chief Electronics Technician (Nuclear) James Harold Shelton, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Vincent Michael Forline and Airman Ethan Thomas Lee Stuart.

None of the deaths occurring on the aircraft carrier, which is in dry dock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

The Defense Suicide Prevention Office collects and reports surveillance data on suicide mortality in the Department of Defense. Last month, the office released its report for 2018:

For CY 2018, the Military Services reported the following suicide deaths:

  • 325 in the Active Component,
  • 81 in the Reserve, and
  • 135 in the National Guard.

The number of suicides among active military have risen over the past three years – particularly in the Marine Corps (57% increase) and Navy (31%) between 2016-2018.

Active Military 2016 2017 2018
Air Force 61 63 60
Army 130 114 139
Marine Corps 37 43 58
Navy 52 65 68
280 285 325