(06/23/2005)
An autopsy report says a 19-year-old Braxton County Marine recruit became unresponsive as he was being pulled out of a training pool at the Paris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot and drowned.

Jason Robert Tharp of Sutton died February 8th while trying to tread water in approximately eight feet of water.

The autopsy report says he was working with a swim instructor because he kept telling the instructor he could not do it.

He had his head under water several times while in the pool, although it was not under water more than a few seconds, according to the report.

As a swim instructor pulled Tharp from the pool, he was lucid and had his arms on a flotation device but was unable to talk.

He then became unresponsive.

By the time he was pulled out of the water he had stopped breathing and had a faint pulse. CPR was started and he began to cough up water. He was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The report was by doctors at the Department of Pathology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina.

Several investigations are under way and nine Marines have been suspended following Tharp's death.

During his five weeks of training nineteen-year-old Jason Tharp had mailed his dad Johnny Tharp seven letters saying he had made a mistake and wanted out of the Marines.

A local TV station shot footage of a drill instructor physically striking the Tharp the day before his death. Such contact is prohibited.

Tharp said his son complained he had been singled out by drill instructors because he couldn't keep up with the rigorous basic training.

"He never hurt nobody. He'd do anything anybody asked him," said his father.

Young Tharp was seen on the WIS-TV video refusing to get into the water and a Marine sergeant explains "He's just afraid because he is not able to do the swim correctly right now, and he just wants to leave and go home."

After 20 minutes of trying to coax Tharp into the pool, the drill instructor turned physical.

"Basically, it's an assault," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Marines say there was no abuse of Tharp the following day when he entered the pool.

"We just want justice for Jason," says his father. "To get some kind of bill passed to where this won't happen to another family."

Video of drill instructor striking Tharp can be seen at www.msnbc.msn.com


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