Coll Perske, 29, a contractor training U.S. Navy dolphins and sea lions to intercept swimmers in the water died last week while participating in a training exercise. Perske was pulled from the water off the coast of San Diego, near the Naval Air Station North Island boat launch and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The San Diego County Medical Examiner declared the cause of death as an accidental drowning.
Perske was a contractor with Science Applications International's marine mammal program for over five years. His death is the first human death in the naval sea creature program since 1959, said a Navy spokesperson last week. The program trains primarily dolphins and sea lions to perform underwater tasks, like bomb detection, equipment retrieval, and even security.
Spokesperson Jim Fallin said the Navy is investigating the death. Initial investigations "indicate the mammals had no contact with Perske before he failed to resurface."
Perske will be greatly missed by his coworkers and the Naval team. Captain Kurt Rothenhaus, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific's commanding officer, issued a statement saying Perske's death is a "tremendous loss for us." Non-essential training is on hold while the Navy investigates the accident.