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Coast Guard Academy graduate who died in training accident was kind soul, full of humor and joy

Morgan Garrett, a 2019 Coast Guard Academy graduate who died in a flight training accident in Alabama on Oct. 23, is being remembered as a young woman full of humor and joy, a kind soul whose positive attitude rubbed off on those around her.

Garrett, a student aviator and an ensign in the Coast Guard, and Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, an instructor pilot, died after the U.S. Navy T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft they were flying in crashed in a residential area of Foley, Ala. Garrett, of Waxhaw N.C., had just celebrated her 24th birthday the day prior. Ross, of Wixom, Mich., was 30.

They’d taken off from Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., on a routine training flight, the Navy said. The service is working with local authorities to investigate the crash.

"Their spirit, friendship, and devotion to their country will not be forgotten," the Navy said in announcing their deaths.

Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, superintendent at the academy, announced Garrett’s death to the academy community in an email over the weekend saying “she was a beloved member of the Class of 2019, was a leader of Echo Company and the Corps, and was outstanding as the Regimental Activities Officer.” 

“She left an indelible mark on her classmates and the entire community, and she will be sorely missed by all,” Kelly said.   

Ross, her instructor, was a member of the University of Michigan’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. She served three years with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 out of Norfolk, Va., before joining the Florida-based Training Squadron Two in 2018, according to the NavyTimes.

A month before graduating, Garrett was asked by academy officials what advice she'd give to fellow cadets.

“Always look out for your shipmates,” she said. “Work out problems on the lowest level possible, and have hard conversations that will end in better results. Rely on your team because you are not able to do everything on your own.”

After graduating from the academy in May 2019, Garrett, a marine and environmental sciences major, went on to flight school in Pensacola, Fla., a coveted assignment among cadets. 

Dozens of people have posted on Garrett's Facebook page in the days since her death, with many remembering her as someone who was always smiling and who lit up every room she walked into. She was a middle distance runner at the academy. Ethan Brown, head coach of the cross country and track and field teams, said she was a spirited individual with an enormous personality.

"She cared tremendously about the people she was with and whoever she encountered. She always wanted to impact people in a positive way and really wanted to bring light to situations where people were encountering difficulties," Brown said.

"If you were down, she helped pick you back up," he said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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