Parachute training, operations still suspended following Hurlburt death

By JIM THOMPSON | The Walton Sun, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. | Published: December 13, 2019

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — An Force Special Operations Command's temporary suspension of parachute operations and training following last month's death of 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff is continuing more than a month after the incident, according to an AFSOC public affairs officer.

AFSOC's temporary suspension of its mountaineering and diving training and operations also is ongoing, according to Air Force Reserve Maj. Amanda Farr, chief of operations for AFSOC Public Affairs.

In an email last week, another AFSOC spokeswoman, Capt. Angelica Epperson, wrote that in conjunction with the suspensions, "AFSOC, in coordination with U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Air Force, will review all equipment, safety procedures and regulations pertaining to these specialized skills."

U.S. Special Operations Command is the unified command for all of the American military's special operations components, but the suspension of specialized training applies only to AFSOC, Farr explained Friday.

Condiff was a Special Tactics combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, part of the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field.

On the late morning of Nov. 5, while participating with other airmen in a parachute training exercise, Condiff experienced what the Air Force is calling an "unplanned parachute departure" from a C-130 combat aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico within a couple of miles of Hurlburt Field.

An intensive four-day search of hundreds of square miles of the Gulf and the shoreline between Destin and Pensacola, involving Coast Guard, Air Force, Army and state and local law enforcement and emergency response units, failed to find any trace of Condiff.

A subsequent Air Force and Navy recovery operation also did not find any trace of Condiff, but the public has been asked to keep a watchful eye for anything that might lead to answers about Condiff's fate.

Less than one month before Condiff's accident, on Oct. 8, another 24th Special Operations Wing airman died as a result of injuries sustained in a mountain rescue training exercise in Boise, Idaho.

Tech. Sgt. Peter Kraines, 33, a Special Tactics pararescueman, sustained blunt-force trauma injuries in a 40-foot fall, according to Stars and Stripes, an independent military news outlet, quoting local law enforcement sources at the time of the incident.

Locally, an Air Force investigation into Condiff's death is proceeding. That investigation includes the work of an accident investigation board, comprising AFSOC personnel as well as personnel from other parts of the Air Force, according to Farr.

The order convening the board was issued on Nov. 19, Farr said.

The board's work "is currently ongoing, and final results will be released upon completion," Farr said in an email.

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