The two FBI agents who were killed in a training accident Friday fell to their deaths while rappelling from a helicopter onto a ship 12 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, an agency spokesperson revealed last night, per the AP. Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, members of the elite Hostage Rescue Team (which famously rescued an Alabama boy from a kidnapper's underground bunker earlier this year), were involved in a maritime counterterrorism exercise when the helicopter "encountered difficulties," per the rep. "The agents tragically fell a significant distance [into the water] and suffered fatal injuries."
A former FBI hostage negotiator who deployed with the team calls its agents "really the best of the best as far as civilians. Their only counterpart would be something like Navy SEAL Team 6 or US Army Delta. There is no other police or FBI SWAT team that's their equal." The Washington Post goes far in backing up that claim: It explains that members of the team live their lives at the ready, able to deploy within four hours of notice; they are able to scuba dive and parachute, and are "expert marksmen." In 30 years, fewer than 300 agents have joined the team's ranks. (Read more FBI stories.)