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Ranger dies week after boat accident

A 22-year-old Fort Benning Ranger has died about a week after a boating accident on Lake Harding.

Sgt. Sean Steven Cook, 22, an Army Ranger stationed at Fort Benning, was pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday.

Cook had been in the Intensive Care Unit of The Medical Center. The cause of his death was multiple injuries including a serious blow to the head suffered on July 29 when the boat he was operating struck the Long Bridge on Lake Harding.

Cook’s wife, Ashley, who was in the boat with him, was critically injured and remains at The Medical Center.

The couple’s home is in Fort Mitchell, Ala.

Cook’s hometown is Cleveland, Tenn. During his time in the military, he received several honors including an Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster for action in a battle zone. He had been deployed five times in the war on terror.

Guss Paulk, a retired soldier and truck driver, was Cook’s neighbor in Fort Mitchell. He would occasionally cut the soldier’s lawn when he was overseas.

He said of Cook, “he was a young guy, very nice.”

Paulk said the Cook’s boat was a big one and he didn’t believe Cook had owned it more than a couple of weeks. Paulk had heard about the accident but didn’t realize it was his neighbor involved.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the Cooks reportedly left Kokomos, a restaurant located on the northwest side of the Long Bridge in a 2010 Tahoe Boat and headed east toward the bridge. The area is marked with “idle speed only” buoys. It was reported Cook was traveling at a high rate of speed.

Just seconds after the Cooks left the establishment, a loud crash was heard and it was found the boat had hit the concrete bridge support piling. That was around 10 p.m.

East Alabama Medical Center EMS and the Lee-Chambers Fire Department responded.

Cook was airlifted by helicopter to The Medical Center. His wife was taken there by ambulance.

Harris said alcohol may have been a factor but that has not been determined.

The accident remains under investigation by the Alabama Marine Police and the Lee County Coroner.