WEST POINT, NY -- The armored military personnel vehicle accident at the United States Military Academy early Thursday morning claimed the life of a 2015 graduate of West Orange High School.
Chris Morgan, 22, a West Point cadet who was an acclaimed and decorated wrestling star at WOHS, was killed and 21 other cadets were injured in the crash that occurred before 7:00 a.m. Thursday, according to published reports.
The cadets “were involved in a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle accident that occurred at approximately 6:45 a.m. off Route 293,” the U.S. Military Academy posted on Twitter.
West Orange Superintendent Eveny de Mendez stated on behalf of the district that the staff, students, administration and board of education “grieve today with the rest of the West Orange community in learning the news of the untimely passing” of Morgan.
“Chris represented the very best of West Orange and our country, and his family continue to be foundational members of our community,” she said. “This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school, especially our students.”
De Mendez also noted that the West Orange Public School District has counselors and professionals trained to help with the needs of students, parents, and school personnel at difficult times such as this and encouraged all community members to utilize these resources as needed.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Morgan family," she said. "We are with you. We are West Orange."
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also issued a statment on Friday, commenting that "Cadet Morgan represented the highest and best values of New Jersey.
"By all accounts, he was a standout in every regard—academically, athletically and in the leadership he showed among his peers within the West Orange and West Point communities," he said. "Tammy and I add our deepest condolences and prayers to those being offered from across our state and around the nation to C.J.’s family, friends, and fellow cadets, and all who knew and were touched by him.
“West Point holds a special place as the crucible in which our nation’s heroes are forged. While C.J. was taken all too soon, it is our sincere hope that his legacy and memory will inspire others to reach for something greater than themselves, and seek a life of duty, honor, and service to our country.”
President Donald Trump, who was in Normandy, France on Thursday commemorating D-Day, released the following statement in a Tweet:
"So sorry to hear about the terrible accident involving our GREAT West Point Cadets. We mourn the loss of life and pray for the injured. God Bless them ALL!"
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a published statement that his heart was broken for all those involved in the tragic training accident.
"These courageous cadets and soldiers represent the best of New York state and our country, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their bravery in choosing to serve our country and protect our freedoms," said Cuomo. "This incident is made all the more heart-wrenching as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day today, a day where we remember those who gave their lives for our country.”
Morgan moved from Illinois to West Orange before entering high school and was on both the football and wrestling teams. Morgan finished fifth in the state for wrestling in the 182-pound weight class in the 2015 NJSIAA Wrestling Championships at Boardwalk Hall in March of that year.
He was also a co-captain on the 2014 West Orange football team and was part of the WOHS Junior Air Force ROTC when that program began in 2014.