HURLBURT FIELD — A search of the Gulf of Mexico for any sign of a Hurlburt Field airman who fell out of a C-130 transport aircraft late Tuesday morning entered its third day Thursday, with no new information on the airman’s fate.
It is not clear exactly how long the search will continue, but the 24th Special Operations Wing, of which the missing airman was a part, noted in a Thursday email that it “continue(s) to assess the situation and will search for our missing Airman as long as the circumstances and resources will allow.”
Meanwhile, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), headquartered at Hurlburt Field, used its Twitter social media account Thursday to ask the public for assistance in the search.
“We ask anyone on the water to please stay vigilant and to contact US Coast Guard Sector Mobile at (251) 441-6211,” read part of the AFSOC tweet.
The airman fell out of the C-130 a little more than two miles south of Hurlburt Field shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, during what the 24th SOW said was “a planned static-line jump as part of a training event.”
The initial search involved aircraft, boats and personnel from Hurlburt Field, the Coast Guard, Eglin Air Force Base, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local law-enforcement agencies.
The airman’s name has not yet been released, and requests to the 24th SOW for more specific information on the circumstances of the fall from the C-130 have been rebuffed due to an ongoing investigation into the incident.
Thus far, there have been conflicting reports as to whether the airman was spotted in the water following what the 24th SOW is calling “an unintentional water landing.”
As of Thursday afternoon, various Air Force and Coast Guard units were searching an area from Destin westward to Pensacola and extending 26 nautical miles (30 statute miles) into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Sydney Phoenix in the Eighth Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office.
The FWC, which had been assisting in the water search, was performing only land patrols on Thursday, according to FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker.
FWC personnel were surveying beaches along the search area for any sign of the missing airman, Parker explained, as the agency continued working in “a support role” to the Air Force and Coast Guard.
Also on land patrol Thursday were 24th SOW airmen riding ATVs along and west of Navarre Beach. The airmen had been in the same area Wednesday, explaining that they were surveying the shoreline for any signs of the missing airman, and alerting search aircraft and boats to “points of interest” in the water.
In its Thursday tweet asking the public to be vigilant for any sign of the airman, AFSOC also took time to thank the people and agencies who have been involved in the search.
“We appreciate the support we are receiving from our fellow services, partner agencies, and the local community,” the AFSOC tweet noted.