US senators from WV ask for investigations into recruit's death at Parris Island

Charleston, West Virginia(AP)_ West Virginia's two United States senators have requested investigations into the death of a Marine recruit who drowned at Parris Island during a water survival training exercise.

Nineteen-year-old Jason Robert Tharp of Sutton, West Virginia, died on February 8th.

Officials say Jason entered the pool voluntarily the day he died and that he was swimming the 25 meter requirement. They say Marines on hand took immediate action to rescue and resuscitate Jason.

WIS News 10 caught on videotape an interaction between Tharp and a drill instructor on February 7th. The video shows a drill instructor yanking Tharp by the shirt and giving him a forearm one day before the recruit died.

Senator Robert C Byrd has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to give the investigation his personal attention.

And, Senator Jay Rockefeller has asked Marine Commandant General Michael Hagee to make sure the probe includes interviews with drill instructors and recruits who served with Tharp.

The drill instructor and four other Marines shown in the video to have witnessed the incident have been suspended until an investigation is complete.

Tharp's parents, Johnny and Linda Tharp, say they plan to sue the military for wrongful death and hope for a court martial for whoever is found responsible. Johnny Tharp says, "I hope we get justice for Jason and get some kind of legislation passed where this won't happen again."

"After he got there he found out he wasn't cut out for the Marine life. We knew that before he went in," Jason Tharp's father says. A drill instructor says Jason was being belligerent and refusing to train. He also said Jason wanted out.

Marine Corps officials in Washington say the drill instructor's actions toward Jason appear to be in direct violation of Marine regulations, and they are investigating the conduct of the drill instructor.

The Marines have specific rules about when a drill instructor can touch a recruit, and they say physical abuse is never acceptable.

WIS News 10 acknowledges we don't know the whole story of what happened to Jason during his five weeks of boot camp. We are presenting the videotape and the facts as we currently know them.

The Marines have been cooperative with us throughout the incident, but tell us they cannot talk specifically about Jason's case until the investigation is complete. Colonel Valentin is waiting for the investigations to finish, "We have three investigations that will determine any wrong doing on the part of any of our drill instructors."

Valentin says it will be at least a month before the investigation into Tharp's death is complete.

A scholarship fund has been set up to honor Jason Tharp's memory by his former school district. Contributions to the fund should be sent to:
Jason Tharp Memorial Scholarship Fund
Braxton County Board of Education
411 North Hill Road
Sutton, West Virginia 26601
ATTN: Treasurer

Condolences may be sent to the same address addressed to the attention of Brenda Gibson.

Story courtesy WIS TV