USS Cole Survivor Found Dead in Florida

Petty Officer 3rd Class Johann Gokool survived the October 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors and injured 39, but on Dec. 23 Gokool was found dead in his room.

The body of Johann Gokool, 31, was found by his younger brother Hamish in a room in the south Florida house Johann, Hamish and a third brother Anjelo all shared.

According to Anjelo Gokool, 33, his brother's body was found face down with his neck at an odd angle. The cause of death remains unclear at this time.

"They say he didn't suffocate. It looked like his neck was out of place, but they say it wasn't broken so right now we just don't know. We have no idea," Anjelo Gokool told

Some family members have speculated that Gokool's death may be the result of the excruciating panic attacks he has endured since the strike on the USS Cole.

Johann Gokool joined the Navy in 1997 because he loved the ocean. "He was obsessed with it, marine biology intrigued him and he thought what better way to see the ocean than join the Navy. He just loved it," said Anjelo Gokool.

Johann Gokool went through boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Station and was then assigned to the USS Cole as an electronic warfare technician.

On Oct 12, 2000 as the USS Cole refueled in Aden, Yemen, an explosives-filled boat rammed the ship and blew a hole in its side. The Cole was quickly engulfed by fire. Gokool was in the mess hall when the attack happened. He was able to climb up a ladder to escape, but his lower left leg had been mangled in the attack and it had to be amputated.

Johann Gokool learned to walk and play sports with a prosthetic leg, but he would never return to active duty. He was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder.

Gokool's brother said Johann's upbeat day-to-day personality remained unchanged, but he experienced severe panic attacks.

"He would describe them to me like a spirit taking over his body. He was conscious, but when the attacks hit he would just fly all over the place, move his arms around," said Anjelo Gokool who added that his brother was powerless to stop the attacks. "He knew when they were coming on, but it was like he had to do whatever this spirit wanted. He couldn't stop it."

Cole Survivor Remained Upbeat Despite Disabilities

Johann Gokool spent many nights on the computer playing video games or corresponding with friends from around the country. He was particularly close to many of the men he served with on the Cole.

Anjelo Gokool also said his brother was a big Miami Dolphins fan and one of his favorite things to do was toss the football around with his brothers.

"The day before this happened we were out playing catch in the backyard," said Gokool. And the night before he died, Johann Gokool and his sister Natala went to see the movie "Avatar."

"He was one of those guys. It would take an act of God to break his spirit," said Gokool.