February 17, 2009 in Region

Army investigates girl’s death at Fort Lewis

Associated Press
 

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — A 16-year-old girl remained in stable condition Tuesday at Madigan Army Medical Center as the military investigated the death of another 16-year-old girl at a Fort Lewis barracks.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division has questioned a soldier acquainted with the girls, but Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Piek said there was no immediate explanation for what they were doing in the barracks at 3:30 a.m. Sunday when emergency responders answered a 911 call.

One girl was declared dead at the scene and another was found unconscious. Piek said there were no outward signs of physical trauma.

The identities of both girls were withheld, but both are from the south Puget Sound area and not military dependents.

The girl who died attended Lakes High for her freshman year last year. She dropped out to take online courses last fall, at the beginning of her sophomore year, but re-enrolled at the school earlier this month, said Kim Prentice, a spokeswoman for the Clover Park School District.

Prentice said she did not believe the other girl was enrolled in the district.

Piek said Army doctors at Madigan were performing an autopsy on the dead girl but results might not be available for at least a week.

Piek said the base is reviewing procedures for civilian visitors. Minors are allowed on the Army base if sponsored by a Defense Department identification holder, but Piek said the Army wants to know what the girls were doing in the barracks and whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

The manager of a dry-cleaning store near Fort Lewis told The Seattle Times she often sees teenage girls approach young soldiers at a parking lot across the street from her shop and ask for rides onto the base.

“It’s easy for them to get on the post. It happens all the time,” Plaza Cleaners manager Maria Dibbens said. “They want to get on base and see the young GIs.”

The Army initially issued a statement about the girls Monday about 36 hours after the incident. Piek said it took the Army until then because it took place during a holiday weekend and gathering information took time.

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