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Air Force Academy mourns double loss of life in same week

Air Force Academy Female Leader
Posted at 10:21 AM, Mar 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-02 12:21:22-05

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo — The United States Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs is mourning the loss of two individuals in unrelated incidents this week.

A cadet was killed in an off-base motorcycle crash Thursday afternoon and a civilian employee passed away Wednesday.

Cadet 2nd Class Tristen Burton, 21 of Granger, Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene of a motorcycle crash on Hwy 24 near Manitou Springs in El Paso County.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, Burton was approaching a left curve in the roadway when he traveled out of the curve, onto the right shoulder and collided with a guardrail.

Another motorcyclist on a second bike was traveling with Burton at the time of the crash and rendered aid to the victim, the CSP said.

The exact cause of the crash is still being investigated.

“Tristen was studying mechanical engineering and hoped to be a special warfare officer,” Lieutenant Gen. Richard M. Clark said in a news release. “He will be remembered as a trusted peer and respected wingman, who excelled in the classroom and in the gym as an avid weightlifter.”

Just the day before the Manitou Springs crash, a 23-year civilian employee was found dead in her car on Academy property after she failed to return home.

She was identified as Chong Hirthler. The cause and manner of her death were not released.

“Chong was a dedicated 23-year member of our Mitchell Hall Food Service team,” Col. Dan Werner said in a news release. “She was well-known and loved across the 10th Air Base Wing, the Preparatory School, and throughout the Cadet Area. Cadets, faculty and staff enjoyed her thoughtfulness and mentorship. She will be missed by everyone.”

Academy officials said support services are in place for cadets, faculty and staff throughout the weekend. Flags were lowered to half-staff Friday.

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