Widow: Army captain 'knocked forward' while on Skype session from Afghanistan

4:40 AM, May 7, 2012   |    comments
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(CNN) -- A U.S. Army captain in Afghanistan did not indicate any unease when he suddenly fell forward while on a video chat with his wife, who then spotted what appeared to be a bullet hole in a closet behind him, his widow said Sunday.

Susan Orellana-Clark's husband, Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark, died last week while serving in Tarin Kowt, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) north of Kandahar. His widow's account offers new detail about what she saw happen from some 7,500 miles away, while also raising fresh questions as to how he died and why, according to her, it took two hours for anyone to come to his aid.

Orellana-Clark said in a statement that, when the two were chatting on Skype last Monday, "there was no sign that Capt. Clark was in any discomfort, nor did he indicate any alarm."

Then, Clark was "suddenly knocked forward," she said. Orellana-Clark said she saw what she described as a bullet hole behind her husband, as did several other individuals -- one of them a military member -- who came over and could still see the scene over the continuing Skype session.

"After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room (in Afghanistan) and appeared to check (Clark's) pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife," the statement said.

Two U.S. military officials with knowledge of the investigation conducted in Afghanistan confirmed that it took two hours from the time Clark collapsed while on Skype with his wife to when military personnel responded. They explained part of the issue was that the wife's request was routed through several commands in the United States before it was relayed to Afghanistan.

No wounds were found on Clark's body, according to one of the officials, who added that the death has been defined as "non-combat" and suicide has been ruled out as a cause.

An official determination on the cause of death is pending while authorities await autopsy and toxicology results, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.

Clarence Davis, a spokesman for the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, where Clark was based, said Friday that it had not been determined how Clark died. A call to the medical center Sunday was not immediately returned.

In addition to his wife, Clark is survived by two daughters.

Known by many as Kevin, he was a chief nurse in the Army who amassed many honors in his military career, according to his family. Those include an Army Commendation Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service Medal.

The longtime resident of Spencerport, New York, joined the Army in September 2006 and served, among other places, at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, according to a Beaumont Army Medical Center statement. More recently, he was based at that medical facility in southwest Texas and assigned to the Army's A Company, Troop Command.

"He loved being in the military," his sister-in-law Mariana Barry told CNN affiliate WHAM in upstate New York. "He was absolutely willing to make any sacrifice, and it's just horrible that this is the sacrifice he ended up making."

His commander described Clark, 43, as "awesome," "professional" and "a great asset, leader and friend," the family said.

After his death, special operations troops from the United States and Australia lined up to give him his final send-off from Afghanistan.

On Thursday, his casket was wrapped in an American flag as it was transported off a military plane onto the tarmac of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the U.S. Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation.

While no dates have been given, the family said that Clark's funeral will be in Spencerport and a memorial service will be held in Addison, Michigan.

In addition, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed that all flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff Monday in Clark's honor, as he's done with other Empire State troops who have died in combat zones.

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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