“A decorated combat veteran and native Long Beach resident was found dead Tuesday floating in the water off Alamitos Beach in what authorities say appears to be an “accidental death.”
Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Harvell, 33, was awarded two Silver Stars, the nation’s third highest award for valor, for combat air control while under enemy fire in Afghanistan. The Air Force cited Harvell for exposing himself to enemy fire to direct air support that killed hundreds of enemy combatants during battles in May and July 2007.
His death Tuesday was confirmed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
A close family friend, 64-year-old Jeff Harris, confirmed Harvell’s identity as a decorated veteran.
Harvell’s younger brother, Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, died Aug. 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was in crashed after being hit with enemy fire from Taliban insurgents.
The Press-Telegram is awaiting comment from the U.S. Air Force.
Harvell was declared dead at 12:59 a.m. Tuesday, said Ed Winter, assistant chief at the Coroner’s Office. His cause of death is being ruled a possible accident. An autopsy is pending and no other details were available Tuesday evening.
Long Beach firefighters were dispatched to the scene near S. 9th Place and E. Ocean Boulevard at 12:46 a.m. after a person called reporting a person down and possibly drowned, said Brian Fisk, a Long Beach Fire Department spokesman. An unknown person pulled Harvell from the water by the time two firefighters and police arrived.
Harvell was cold from the water and couldn’t be revived despite CPR, Fisk said.
Sean Harvell earned his first Silver Star for his actions during operations near Garm Ab Village and Kajaki Sofia, Afghanistan, on May 8 and 30, 2007 while serving as a Combat Controller with the 22nd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron.
Despite facing ferocious enemy fire from as close as five meters, he directed air attacks that destroyed Taliban positions, saving his teammates’ lives, according to his award citation. Later, during an ambush, he directed F-18 strafing runs within 45 feet of his position to rout enemy insurgents.
“On 30 May 2007, while attempting the recovery of a downed CH-47 helicopter and United States Army aircrew, he was wounded and knocked unconscious by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Taliban militants in a daring daylight ambush,” the citation said. “Regaining consciousness and bleeding from multiple wounds, Sergeant Harvell engaged Taliban fighters with his personal M-4 carbine, M-12 shotgun and then grenades while simultaneously directing deadly, danger-close air attacks on the insurgent force, effectively neutralizing all enemy threats to his team and allowing another special operations team to recover the remains of all service members and sensitive equipment from the crash site.”
Harvell was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a second Silver Star for actions with the same unit in combat on July 25, 2007.
According to his award citation, he and his unit was engulfed in an eight-hour firefight with Taliban forces while trying to clear a compound along the Helmand River. Harvel led a small team into the compound, drew gunfire away from his teammates, sprinted across open ground while taking machine gun fire from 30 feet away and directed A-10 fighter and AC-130 gunship air support that ultimately took out the enemy compound once he and his team had retreated.
Harvell lost his younger brother in combat the year after he received his Silver Stars.
The crash that killed Andrew Harvell and 37 others, many of whom were elite Navy SEALs, was the largest single deadliest loss for American forces in the decade-old war, according to news reports at the time.
Sean Harvell accompanied his younger brother’s body on its final transport back to Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
Harvell stayed in the military until the last few years, Harris said, but wasn’t certain on exactly when he left the Air Force. He worked at a motorcycle repair shop for a time until he was contacted by the Department of Defense to do contract work in Iraq.
Harris said Harvell was due to return to Iraq shortly, but that he did not know the nature of his contract work, which he understood to be classified.
The circumstances of his death remain under investigation.”
By The Press Telegram
Other Sources: Long Beach Post, Gazettes
Rest In Peace TSgt (ret) Harvell