A Navy SEAL from Louisiana was among 16 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday when a MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down, family members said.
Jacques Fontan, 36, was a chief petty officer and was serving his final days of deployment when he was killed, family members said. "He's my baby brother, we were very close," said his sister, Suzanne Fontan Gonczy. "The family is obviously devastated."
The helicopter was shot down in eastern Afghanistan on a mission to aid a band of U.S. troops fighting militants.
Juli St. Martin, his ex-wife, said family members were notified Wednesday that he was aboard the helicopter. On Friday his death was announced to the family, she said.
The crash was the deadliest single attack on U.S. forces since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001.
Lt. Col. Chris Conway, a Department of Defense spokesman, would not confirm Fontan's death.
Fontan grew up in New Orleans and attended university in Lafayette in the late 1980s. "He had one week left in Afghanistan and then he would go to Germany," St. Martin said. "This would have been the last deployment of his military career."
Fontan's father, Earl Fontan of New Orleans, said his son joined the Navy 17 years ago. He served as a fire control specialist aboard Navy fighting ships, managing electronics that controlled weapons systems, and was a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, serving aboard the USS Nicholas, his father said. He became a SEAL a few years ago when he considered leaving the military and Navy superiors, determined to keep him, asked him what he would most like to do, his father said.
He planned to retire with his wife in Florida, his father said.
He was serving at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va. "Family was important to him. On leaves, he spent them with our family - most of which was in New Orleans, some of which now is in Atlanta," Earl Fontan said. "He was great with his niece and nephews. He delighted in playing roughhouse with them."
Fontan is survived by his wife, Charissa Fletcher Fontan of Virginia Beach; his daughter, Jourdan Kay Fontan; his father; his mother and stepfather, Hazel and Donald Rue of Atlanta; his brother, Jean Paul Fontan of Atlanta; two sisters, Gonczy and Cheri Fontan Skop of Atlanta; and his grandmother, Marguerite Helburn Delchamps of Mandeville.
A memorial service for SEALs killed Tuesday is expected to be held next week at the Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia. St. Martin said Fontan would be buried in Jacksonville, Fla., where he wanted to retire. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)