HURLBURT FIELD — A U.S. Air Force pararescueman (PJ) who had been part of the Hurlburt Field-based 24th Special Operations Wing died in a fall from the top of a cliff after installing some anchoring equipment to assist less-experienced team members during mountain climbing and rescue training last year in Idaho, according to an Air Force Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report released Wednesday.
RELATED: (Oct. 2019) Airman from Hurlburt-headquartered wing dies in training accident
Tech. Sgt. Peter Kraines, 33, who had been based at North Carolina’s Pope Army Airfield, died Oct. 8 during training at the Black Cliff climbing area between Boise and Lucky Peak.
RELATED: (May 2020) AFSOC resumes parachute, diving, mountaineering training
According to a news release from Hurlburt Field-headquartered Air Force Special Operations Command, of which the 24th Special Operations Wing is a part, Kraines was a member of a five-person training team comprising himself and two other pararescuemen, along with two combat controllers.
Air Force PJs conduct personnel recovery, including combat rescue operations, in a wide variety of terrains. The service’s combat controllers deploy stealthily into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones and airfields.
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"The team’s goals were for the PJs to maintain proficiency in traditional and sport climbing techniques, while conducting familiarization training for the CCTs (combat controllers)," according to the AFSOC news release.
At the time of the accident, according to the release, Kraines was assisting two team members in rappelling down a cliff face when a safety anchoring system failed, "pulling the rope system and Kraines off the top of the cliff."
More specifically, as outlined in the Accident Investigation Board report, Kraines had assessed that a permanent anchor affixed below the cliff edge "created an unsafe situation for the less experienced climbers, and elected to establish a traditional rock protection anchor utilizing climbing protection gear."
Subsequently, Kraines clipped himself into the anchor system to assist two other team members rappelling down the cliff face. The first team member made it to the bottom of the cliff, but as the second team member was descending, a component of the climbing protection gear pulled loose, and he fell a couple of feet.
Also as the gear pulled loose, Kraines "was pulled off the ledge and landed at the base of the cliff," according to the AIB report, which noted that Kraines fell approximately 63 feet.
Kraines’ team, working along with first responders, "attempted resuscitation without success," according to Wednesday’s AFSOC news release.
First responders "later pronounced (Kraines) deceased at the scene due to injuries sustained in the fall," according to the AIB report.
While the report concluded that "(t)here is no evidence to indicate any rock climbing and mountaineering equipment malfunctioned at the time of the mishap," it does note that one of the climbers being assisted by Kraines raised a question about the anchoring system.
That team member, according to the AIB report, "felt a shift in the anchor, and asked (Kraines) if the system was still secured."
The report states that Kraines "rechecked the anchor to ensure proper .. placement, and explained the shift was likely due to the addition of weight and that it (the shift) was the (anchor) more securely gripping the rock."
Kraines’ death was among the reasons that AFSOC suspended its mountaineering, diving and parachuting training late last year. All of that training was reinstated in May.
The death of another Hurlburt airman, 24th Special Operations Wing Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, also factored into the Air Force’s five-month suspension of parachuting, mountaineering and diving training.
On Nov. 5 of last year, Condiff, 29, experienced what the Air Force is calling an "unplanned parachute departure" from a C-130 aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico a couple of miles from Hurlburt Field. A massive days-long search failed to turn up any trace of Condiff.
The Air Force has not yet released any report on its apparently ongoing investigation into Condiff’s death.
On March 19 of this year, another airman with the 24th Special Operations Wing died after going missing during surface swim training at Naval Support Activity Panama City.
Airman First Class Keigan Baker, 24, a Special Tactics combat controller, was taking part in the Air Force Combat Dive Course at the time of the incident. A Navy and Coast Guard rescue effort recovered Baker’s body some hours after he was first noticed to be missing.