Top FBI Agents Die in Counter-Terrorism Exercise Accident

Mike O'Brien

Two members of the FBI’s elite hostage rescue team fell to their death when a helicopter got into trouble during a maritime counter-terrorism exercise.

The men died when they fell into the sea during the training exercise about 12 miles off the Virginia Beach coast.

An investigation has been launched but the agency warned it may be weeks before a formal cause of death is determined because the state medical examiner's regional office is waiting for toxicology results.

The incident, which happened on Friday, was revealed by the agency on Monday night.

FBI spokesman Special Agent Ann Todd said: "The FBI agents were participating in a maritime counterterrorism exercise involving helicopters and a ship.

"The agents were in the process of fast-roping from the aircraft onto the ship when the helicopter encountered difficulties. The agents tragically fell a significant distance and suffered fatal injuries."

Special Agent Christopher Lorek, 41, who joined the FBI in 1996, leaves a wife and two daughters.

His colleague Stephen Shaw, 40, who joined the FBI in 2005, is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

The agency has planned a private memorial service for the men for Tuesday.

Former FBI hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt told the Associated Press that the men were "the best of the best."

He said: "Their only counterpart would be something like Navy SEAL Team 6 or U.S. Army Delta.

"There is no other police or FBI SWAT teamthat's their equal, because that's their full-time job. That's all they do is train for highly critical terrorist, hostage and criminal situations."