Monday, March 28, 2005

Fort Bragg Officer's Hiccups, Death A Mystery

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The family of a Fort Bragg officer recently back from Iraq said Capt. Terrance Wright seemed to hiccup almost constantly for weeks before he died earlier this month.

The Army said Wright died of an unknown illness shortly after returning from Iraq in February. His body was found in a Fayetteville motel room on March 2.

Wright's mother, Sandra Wright, and an aunt, Karen Wright, said Wright had been a healthy 33-year-old before he deployed to Iraq in November. It was his second tour in Iraq.

Karen Wright said she spoke to her nephew in Iraq in early February.

"He could not speak one sentence without hiccuping," she said.

Wright was seen by doctors in Germany and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before being sent to a doctor at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg last month, said Capt. Kevin Broadnax, an Army casualty assistance officer.

Federal privacy laws bar the Army from saying why Wright was being seen at Womack, hospital spokeswoman Shannon Lynch said.

An autopsy performed on Wright's body by Womack doctors was inconclusive, Lynch said. The hospital is waiting for the results of toxicology tests, she said.

Karen Wright said she talked to her nephew again on Feb. 17 while he was at Walter Reed. Again, he "hiccuped constantly" but didn't complain about anything, she said.

She said she next spoke to her nephew Feb. 19, when he called from Fayetteville to say he would catch a train the next day to his native Charleston, S.C.

Capt. Wright spent three days in Charleston, his mother said. He hiccuped the entire time and looked "weak in the eyes," Karen Wright said.

The officer returned to Fayetteville and checked into a motel on Feb. 24. A motel clerk said she knew Wright because he had stayed there before. She said he looked tired when she saw him last.

Karen Wright said the last time anybody reported seeing her nephew was Feb. 25, five days before his body was found.

On that day, according to Sandra Wright, a captain in his battalion said she asked her son if he was feeling all right. Capt. Wright had been sweating profusely, Sandra Wright said she was told.

Karen and Sandra Wright described Capt. Wright as a quiet, soft-spoken man who rarely complained.

"We are waiting for answers," Sandra Wright added. "We want to be able to know what happened to him."

Karen Wright said a bottle of lisinopril, a medication to lower blood pressure, was found in Capt. Wright's belongings in the motel room. The bottle indicated that the prescription was filled on Feb. 1. All 30 pills remained inside, Karen Wright said.

Capt. Wright's death follows the deaths of two North Carolina soldiers who died after returning from the Middle East and experiencing flu-like symptoms.

State epidemiologist Jeffrey Engel said the deaths of Special Forces Capt. Gilbert A. Munoz and Army Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Rogers, a reservist, were related only in their timing.

Munoz, 29, appears to have had a bacterial infection and the flu, Engel said. He died of pneumonia Feb. 9. Rogers, 37, died on Feb. 14, just two days after he began feeling ill, his wife said.

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