Navy lieutenant among victims in Hawaii skydiving crash
By ALLISON SCHAEFERS, LEILA FUJIMORI AND WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: June 25, 2019
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Six employees of Oahu Parachute Center, three visitors and two local skydivers died Friday in the fiery crash of a twin-engine aircraft that took off on a sunset skydive flight in Mokuleia and left no survivors.
Among the victims was Navy Lt. Joshua Drablos, 27, a native of Forest, Va., who was confirmed aboard the aircraft by the NTSB and confirmed dead by Honolulu Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Happy, the Navy said Monday in a news release. Drablos was assigned to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command.
Happy and his staff Monday confirmed six other victims: Nikolas Glebov, 28, Oregon resident; Daniel Herndon, 35, Hawaii resident; Michael Martin, 32, Hawaii resident; Jordan Tehero, 23, Hawaii resident; Ashley Weikel, 26, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Bryan Weikel, 27, Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has confirmed through friends, family and social media the other victims: Oahu Parachute Center employees Larry Lemaster, James Lisenbee, Casey Williamson and the pilot, Jerome Renck.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are examining the incident, which they called the deadliest civilian aircraft accident in the U.S. since a 2011 Reno Air Show crash that killed the pilot and 10 spectators. NTSB investigators said the Beechcraft King Air 65-A90 apparently flipped and burned shortly after takeoff Friday night.
A makeshift memorial at Dillingham Airfield continues to grow as mourners place flowers near the crash site. The airfield remained closed Monday because of the investigation.
Drablos had been with the Kunia Cyber Mission Force since late 2018, except for a few months as a student at the Naval War College.
“Some people would go the extra mile for a friend. Josh was the very rare person who would go an extra 1,000 — whatever it took, no questions asked,” Kyle Spangler, who lives in Virginia, wrote on Facebook. “He also cared very deeply about his friends’ accomplishments and goals, more so than even his own. I never heard him one talk about his own achievements, but he readily told the achievements of his friends to anyone and everyone.”
Drablos, who attended the Naval Academy, was on the Navy men’s track and field team as a pole vaulter.
As a Jefferson Forest High School student, Drablos won the state title in pole vault in 2010, the year he graduated.
He was a track and field team captain and was president of the Teenage Republicans Club.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and shipmates of Lt. Joshua Drablos during this extremely difficult and painful time,” said the commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet, Vice Adm. Timothy “T.J.” White.
“Joshua was an invaluable member of the Fleet Cyber team, and we are deeply saddened by the loss of this humble warrior,” White said.
Some details on other victims:
Bryan and Ashley Weikel
An outdoorsy, adventure-loving couple, who only had been married a year, were among the 11 killed in Friday’s crash.
Bryan Weikel, 27, who had visited Hawaii before, reportedly gave the trip to his wife, Ashley Weikel, 26, as a gift, said Jessica Lani Rich, president and CEO of the Visitor Aloha Society, which will be aiding the families of the visitors who died Friday.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Monday that it was the first skydiving adventure for the couple.
Ashley Weikel posted pictures of the couple boarding the skydiving plane Friday.
Relatives told KCNC-TV the couple was excited to go skydiving, but Bryan’s mother, Kathy Reed-Gerk, begged him not to go.
A 28-year-old visitor from Oregon, Glebov went skydiving Friday as part of a four-week vacation to Hawaii.
The man, who has family in St. Paul, reportedly worked on a ship, said Rich.
He was reported missing after failing to show up for a scheduled meeting on a ship, Rich said.
Herndon, 27, was a skydiving instructor at Oahu Parachute Center. He lived in Haleiwa and hailed from Wagoner, Okla.
On his Facebook page he identifies himself as a videographer, coach and skydiving instructor. His profile says he studied mechanical engineering at Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Community College, and attended Wagoner High School.
His final post was two hours before the crash at 4:21 p.m. Friday. He posted a video of himself scuba diving with two other employees who worked with him: John Wilber and another crash victim, Mike Martin. He called the dive spot, Cathedrals, “soul-changing.”
His wife of four months, Natt, wrote on that post, “I miss you so much babe.”
On Feb. 19 he posted photos of their wedding, saying, “I’m feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. … Everyday with this girl is a gift that I’m thankful for and I look forward to sharing my life with her!”
And she posted on her own page, “Love you forever.”
Martin had a passion for skydiving, kiteboarding, surfing and all things having to do with living life fearlessly, according to friends.
Martin was listed as a member of Oahu Parachute Center’s ground crew on the company’s website.
Martin’s Facebook page features a photo of himself dangling from parachute rigging with the sun setting in the distance and bouncing beams of light off his sunglasses and rigging. His Facebook page says he was from Palm Bay, Fla., and was self-employed in Hawaii.
Longtime friend and former roommate Brian Jones said Martin taught him to live fearlessly.
“‘Don’t be afraid’ — that’s what Mike taught me. ‘Just follow your dreams,’” Jones said Saturday while visiting the crash site to pay his respects to a friend whom he says he will remember forever.
Tehero was a budding videographer who fell in love with skydiving.
His father, Garret Tehero, told The Associated Press that he took up skydiving a few years ago as a distraction from the breakup of a relationship. Then his son “went and fell in love” with the sport, he said.
Garret Tehero lives on Kauai, where his son also lived. Tehero said he spoke with his son the morning of the crash. The two had flown to Honolulu together, the father for business and Jordan for skydiving. Jordan also worked as a security guard, and his employer wanted him to do some work in Honolulu on Sunday as well, so he decided to stay while his father went back to Kauai.
Jordan’s parents both expressed worries over his new hobby.
“Because of our fear, we wanted him to stop,” the father said. “But he didn’t have the fear that we had, so he just continued.”
Any fears he may have had were taken care of with prayer. “He always told me, ‘Dad, I pray before every flight; before every jump I pray,’” the father said.
Williamson, 29, worked as an instructor and outside videographer for Oahu Parachute Center.
He has not been identified as one of the deceased by the Honolulu Medical Examiner. However, Natacha Mendenhall, Williamson’s cousin, told The Associated Press that he worked at Oahu Parachute Center and was aboard the skydiving plane that crashed Friday. As of Sunday his family had not been officially notified of his death, but Honolulu police confirmed he was on the flight, she said.
Williamson was a native of Yukon, Okla., and started skydiving about 2-1/2 years ago. He was the only child of his mother, Carla Ajaga, Mendenhall said.
A veteran skydiving instructor, Lemaster had more than 20 years of experience and more than 8,000 jumps under his belt.
His Facebook page shows him in multiple pictures inside airplanes, with people strapped to his chest for tandem skydives and wearing various skydiving suits. The Army veteran’s page is full of condolences, praise for his skydiving mentorship and links to news coverage of Friday’s crash.
Anna Elkins, the mother of Lemaster’s young son, arrived in Hawaii on Sunday with plans to bring their child home.
Elkins posted on Facebook that she didn’t “have an explanation for the utter tragedy that happened. But Larry Lemaster would never want one person to waste a single minute of their life mourning his. He was doing what he loved.”
Lemaster had connections to Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio, where he was a member of a professional skydiving team, Team Fastrax.
Team Fastrax, which helped fund Elkins’ trip to Hawaii, said in a Facebook tribute, “In all the years we have known Larry he never said a negative word about anyone. He impacted everyone he met in a positive way through his kindness and love for all.”
Renck, in his early 40s, was flying the skydiving plane involved in Friday’s fatal crash.
Renck’s brother Quentin told People magazine that his brother was “truly one of a kind” and “loved traveling.”
“One of the happiest and smartest humans I have ever met,” he told People. “He was always the kind of guy to make funny faces in all the pictures.”
Renck, who was French, also had ties to Florida.
Originally from Fallon, Nev., Lisenbee worked as an instructor at Oahu Parachute Center.
Skydiver Sara Cameron recalled Lisenbee and the other members of Oahu Parachute Center’s fallen team in a recent Facebook post: “These men were salt of the earth. They believed and told us repeatedly we would live more in the next ten minutes than most do their entire lives. We did. And they did. This is how they lived their lives and they died doing what they loved.”
Cameron went on to say, “My heart continues to break for the tragedy of the loss of these men, the loss of their spirit and love of life. I only knew them briefly but I knew their brief friendship would have a lasting impact on me. I’ve been asked if I’ll skydive again. I absolutely will; because they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Fly high gentlemen.”
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