UPDATED: South Deerfield family mourns loss of Navy corpsman

  • Meaghan Burns CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/7/2019 1:48:32 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A South Deerfield family is mourning the loss of Meaghan Elizabeth Burns, a U.S. Navy corpsman who was shot to death at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Portsmouth, Va., on Saturday night.

Burns, 23, was one of three active-duty Navy corpsmen killed in what police are calling a double homicide and suicide.

According to her obituary, Burns was born on Aug. 25, 1995, in Springfield. Her family moved to South Deerfield in 2004. She graduated from Frontier Regional School in 2013 and enlisted in the Navy in 2015. She was stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth at the time of her death.

Her father, Matthews Burns, who wrote the obituary, said his daughter was a well-traveled young woman who enjoyed spending time with her family.

“I never wanted to know how it felt to lose a child,” he said Tuesday. “It’s like having your heart ripped out of your chest.”

Matthew Burns said his daughter became a Navy corpsman because she liked helping people and wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. Matthew had been a corpsman for four years in the 1980s. He said Meaghan planned to go to school to study to become a physician’s assistant, also like her father. September would have been the four-year anniversary of her enlistment.

“We are very proud of her,” he said.

Matthew Burns said his family was informed of the devastating news when they were visited by U.S. Navy representatives and Deerfield Police officers around 5 p.m. Sunday.

He said his daughter had previously been stationed in Naples, Italy, driving ambulances and working in an emergency room treating mostly service members and retirees. Meaghan took advantage of being stationed in Europe and seized the opportunity to travel to countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France and Croatia. Her father said she was in Berlin on Dec. 19, 2016, when a terrorist deliberately drove a hijacked truck into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, killing a dozen and injuring about 56.

Matthew Burns said the Navy will fly Meaghan’s body to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, where she will get a military escort to Wrisley Funeral Home in South Deerfield. Matthew said his daughter will be cremated and her ashes will be brought to her favorite spots in Massachusetts — such as Mount Sugarloaf and Cape Cod.

“We’re missing her and our hearts are broken,” Matthew Burns said. “She was one of the bright lights in my life. We’re going to miss the hell out of her.”

Meaghan’s immediate family also includes her mother, Carolyn, and her younger sister, Kyleigh Rose.

Meaghan Burns attended Deerfield Elementary School and Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield before graduating from Frontier in 2013. The family moved to South Deerfield in 2004, when Matthew Burns started working at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

According to a statement from the Portsmouth (Va.) Police Department, detectives with its major crimes unit are investigating the shooting that occurred at the 7-Eleven at 1811 Effingham St. at approximately 11:22 p.m. on Saturday.

“When officers arrived, they found two adult females suffering from injuries to their torsos. Medics arrived and pronounced both females deceased at the scene,” the statement reads. The other female victim was identified as Shianne Taylor Soles, 19, of Veradale, Wash. She, like Meaghan Burns, was stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

“As officers began arriving on scene, they were directed to a vehicle in the parking lot of the Dollar General, located at 1711 Effingham St.,” the statement reads. “Upon contact with the occupant of that vehicle, officers found the male driver suffering from a self-inflicted injury to his upper body. Medics responded and pronounced him deceased at the scene. The male has been identified by NCIS investigators as 22-year-old Donavon Moora of New York.”

Moora was also active-duty military and currently stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

According to Ed Gulick, a Bureau of Medicine and Surgery spokesman, mental health professionals and chaplains at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Camp Lejeune are available to help anyone dealing with grief resulting from this incident.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and shipmates during this difficult time,” he said.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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