VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents died during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach Friday. The agents were members of the elite Hostage Rescue Team. FBI officials did not release any details on the incident until 10 On Your Side started asking questions about an aircraft that landed at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital Friday.
WAVY.com spoke to retired FBI Special Agent Irvin Wells for insight into the HRT. Wells was a special agent for the FBI for 26 years. At the time of his retirement in 1990, Wells was Special Agent in Charge of the Norfolk Virginia Field Division.
The two agents who died during the training exercise were 41-year-old Special Agent Christopher Lorek and 40-year-old Special Agent Stephen Shaw. As members of the elite Hostage Rescue Team, they were ready to respond to any terrorist incident, hostage situation and major criminal threats across the country within four hours. Wells says HRT training is tough, and often dangerous.
"There is an inherent risk in the type of training Hostage Rescue Team does, by its very nature it trains for highly risky environment," Wells said. "Therefore you have to set the training and the environment in a highly risky situation."
Wells was not in the HRT, but says he watched the formation of the elite group, and knows about their intense training exercises.
Wells says in order to prepare for these risky missions, the FBI tries to make the training feel like real missions. On Friday, one of these missions took the Hostage Rescue team off the Virginia Beach coast. WAVY.com learned from Navy officials the agents were using a Military Sealift Command vessel. No Navy personnel were involved in the training exercise.
While he can't speculate what type of mission Hostage Rescue Team was on, Well he believes something must have gone wrong, because of the intense expertise of the Hostage Rescue Team.
"I can't emphasize enough the high skills that the members of the HRT have," Well said. "I can say with no hesitation that every member of the HRT is an extraordinary person, highly skilled and very well trained. It is very, very difficult to qualify and to remain in the HRT."
A Sentara Norfolk General Hospital spokesperson told WAVY.com the agents were brought to the hospital by helicopter. But how the agents died remains a mystery. The Medical Examiner's Office could release that information as soon as Monday morning.
Both agents were very experienced. Agent Lorek joined the FBI in 1996. Agent Shaw joined the FBI in 2005. Both leave behind wives and young children.
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