THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mass. soldier in Afghanistan reported killed

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By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / December 13, 2010

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A 2008 graduate of Durfee High School in Fall River has been killed in Afghanistan, the man’s former mentors and a city official said yesterday.

City Council President Joseph D. Camara said in a telephone interview that he was informed Saturday night about the death of Ethan Goncalo, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard. Camara said he heard the news from a mutual friend of the Goncalo family.

“It’s terrible; I feel bad for the family,’’ he said. “I’m sorry for what they have to go through.’’

He did not have details on how Goncalo died. He described him as a strong athlete and a “young man who was very full of energy.’’

“He was quick with a joke, and he was very vibrant,’’ Camara said. “He was just a good kid.’’

A call to a number listed for Goncalo’s father, Louis Goncalo, was not returned yesterday. He told the Providence Journal that his son was a 21-year-old private in the First Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment of the state’s Army National Guard.

Soldiers from the 181st began providing security for bases in Kabul and for reconstruction teams throughout the country in November, the Guard said last month.

A US Department of Defense spokesman said yesterday that he could not confirm Goncalo’s death, citing rules barring the military from identifying casualties until 24 hours after notifying family members.

Brad Bustin, head coach of the Durfee High baseball team, said Goncalo graduated in 2008 after transferring from Bishop Connolly High School, also in Fall River. He said Goncalo, a power hitter who worked out in the gym and the batting cage year-round, was a standout player during his senior year.

“He was an extremely hard worker,’’ Bustin said. “He loved baseball. It was his passion. He took a very hard swing; he didn’t get cheated. When he hit the ball, he hit it very hard.’’

He said Goncalo usually batted third or fourth in the order and played catcher, the outfield, and sometimes pitched. “He had a very strong arm,’’ Bustin said.

He described Goncalo as “a very likable kid’’ and said he got text messages from some of the young man’s former teammates Saturday about his death.

Officials at Bishop Connolly could not be reached for comment.

Tom Frizzell, head coach of the baseball team at Massasoit Community College in Brockton, said in a telephone interview that Goncalo impressed college and professional baseball scouts in during a tryout in fall 2007.

“He swung the bat very, very well and handled himself more than adequately behind the plate,’’ Frizzell said.

Ray Arra, head coach of the Westfield State University baseball team, said he recruited Goncalo, who enrolled at the school and practiced briefly with the team before leaving campus.

Frizzell said Goncalo later enrolled at Massasoit and was a student in a class he taught on the principles of coaching.

“He indicated to me that he still enjoyed playing [baseball], but he was really looking forward to a career in the military,’’ said Frizzell. “Obviously, he wanted to serve his country.’’

Not including Goncalo, three service members from Fall River have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by Dec. 6, according to the state Department of Veterans Services. Statewide, 124 service members have died in both operations as of last week, the department said. A spokeswoman said 13 soldiers with the Massachusetts National Guard have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Goncalo, if his death is confirmed, would make 14.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.