NEPA teen serving in Air Force drowns overseas

Shannon Purcell (far right) went into the Air Force after graduating from Wyoming Valley West High School.

Luzerne County, PA (WOLF) A recent high school graduate died in an accident overseas this weekend.

Shannon Purcell, 18, went into the Air Force after graduating from Wyoming Valley West High School.

She was serving at the Kadena base in Japan. She was a Conventional Maintenance Technician assigned to the 18th Munitions Squadron.

According to the U.S. military, Purcell drowned Saturday after falling from Aha Falls.

A Japanese news outlet reported recent rains had swollen the river and churned up the water making it hard to find her body.

The 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons worked together with local first responders to recover her body.

The military release shows Purcell's body was airlifted to Naval Hospital Okinawa. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

She is remembered by Airmen across Team Kadena.

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Shannon’s parents, family and friends, both here and abroad.” Brigadier Gen. Barry Cornish, 18th Wing commander, said. “We at the 18th Wing are devastated by the news of her passing. Her service and contribution to our nation will not be forgotten. If you find yourself in need of help during this trying time, please reach out to a friend, supervisor, chaplain or mental health professional. Look after one another by employing the Wingman Concept as we come to terms with this loss.”

The incident has shaken the Wyoming Valley West community.

Purcell graduated in 2016.

Her friends are shocked to learn the vibrant, athletic young lady will never come home.

"It still isn't real," said Sara d'Andrea. She's known Purcell since she was eight years old.

Purcell's field hockey coach, Susan Magnotta is devastated.

"Shannon was one of the most amazing people that you'd ever want to meet," Magnotta said. "She always had a smile on her face. She had more energy than anyone I know."

On the field, Purcell was a leader.

"She was the first one to step up and coach the younger girls," said Magnotta. "She was a total team player."

Purcell had been planning on joining the military for years.

"It was absolutely everything to her," said d'Andrea. "She's been talking about the Air Force since freshman year. She stayed with it. She was excited when she learned she was going to Japan. The base is on a beach. That's her favorite. So she got to be somewhere she loved."

"When she went into the Air Force she was so excited and proud to serve her country," said Magnotta.

Her friends want you to remember her smile.

"She always wanted people to be positive," said Yvonne Laurito, Purcell's teammate. "If there's anything to remember from this, stay close with your family and stay positive."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off