USS Montana Sailor Died by Suicide, Says Local Medical Examiner

March 30, 2023 6:16 PM
Virginia-class attack submarine Montana (SSN-794) on Feb. 2, 2022. HII Photo

A sailor assigned to USS Montana (SSN-794) died by suicide, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Tidewater, Va., region told USNI News on Thursday.

Electronics Technician Navigation 3rd Class (ETV3) Devon Faehnrich was pronounced dead at Riverside Regional Medical Center after being found on the pier next to the submarine at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Faehnrich died from a gunshot wound to the head, Donna Price, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in the statement to USNI News.

Faehnrich reported to Montana on March 30, 2022, after attending submarine school, according to his official Navy biography. He enlisted in the Navy in April 2021.

The Navy commissioned Montana in June 2022 after it was delivered in March. It arrived at Newport News Shipbuilding in January for Post-Shakedown Availability, Todd Corillo, spokesperson for HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division, said in an email.

“Out of respect for our customer and to protect the privacy of military families, Newport News Shipbuilding does not discuss deaths of our U.S. Navy teammates with the exception of a workplace accident. Our condolences go out to the sailor’s family and friends, and our shipbuilders, during this time of loss,” Corillo said in a statement.

Faehnrich’s death comes nearly a year after a string of suicides among sailors assigned to USS George Washington (CVN-73), which has been undergoing its mid-life refueling and overhaul. George Washington is also berthed at Newport News Shipbuilding.

A Navy report, released in December, found no connections between the three suicides in April. Two deaths happened in personal residences, while a third happened aboard the carrier.

However, the report raised a number of quality-of-life concerns, including difficult sleeping conditions for sailors who lived on the ship during the repairs, unsatisfactory distances between the ship and parking lots and an overburdened mental health system.

A second report, focused on quality-of-life issues, is expected later this year. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed Franklin Parker, assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for the report during a March 13 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Blumenthal said he met with the father of Xavier Mitchell-Sandor, the third George Washington sailor to die by suicide.

“I think the family has a right to see that report,” Blumenthal said. “What would you say the family? What would you say to John Sandor? His son [died by] suicide almost 11 months today go and the Navy still has not given him the facts.”

It is unclear if Faehnrich’s death will affect the report or its results.

Navy suicides dropped in 2021, the most recent year data is available, but overall, the rate of suicide in the sea service rose over the past 10 years, according to the Department of Defense’s annual suicide report.

Suicide Prevention Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

The Navy Suicide Prevention Handbook is a guide designed to be a reference for policy requirements, program guidance, and educational tools for commands. The handbook is organized to support fundamental command Suicide Prevention Program efforts in Training, Intervention, Response, and Reporting.

The 1 Small ACT Toolkit helps sailors foster a command climate that supports psychological health. The toolkit includes suggestions for assisting sailors in staying mission ready, recognizing warning signs of increased suicide risk in oneself or others, and taking action to promote safety.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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