Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jump kills Special Operations Command skydiver near MacDill

Rescue personnel pull the off-course skydiver’s parachute from a lake in Gadsden Park on Thursday morning. The skydiver had been practicing with airborne troops at MacDill Air Force Base.

Tampa Fire Rescue

Rescue personnel pull the off-course skydiver’s parachute from a lake in Gadsden Park on Thursday morning. The skydiver had been practicing with airborne troops at MacDill Air Force Base.

TAMPA — A U.S. Special Operations Command skydiver died Thursday after going off course and plunging into a lake outside MacDill Air Force Base, authorities said.

Air Force Col. Larry Martin wouldn't release the man's name Thursday, saying it's customary for the military to give relatives 24 hours to grieve in private. A safety board has been convened to investigate the accident, Martin said.

Military officials say the skydiver was practicing routine jumps with a group of airborne troops when the accident occurred.

Off-duty Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter Matthew Martinez, 29, and his friend Joe Cordes, 26, witnessed it all. The two men tried unsuccessfully to save the skydiver from the chilly, murky water.

Martinez and Cordes were fishing from their kayak in a lake at Gadsden Park about 9:30 a.m. when they noticed about 10 skydivers above.

Then, Cordes said, "We noticed one was way off course compared to the rest of the group."

The men watched from the water as the lone skydiver avoided a power line then crashed into the lake about 100 yards away.

Cordes said the skydiver immediately started swimming upon impact, so he thought that perhaps the skydiver would be okay.

"We figured we'd just pull up and say, 'Hey man. You're way off target there,' " Cordes said. "At no time did we think he wasn't going to make it. But obviously, that's not what happened."

Cordes and Martinez noticed the skydiver begin to struggle when they got within about 20 feet. They ditched their kayak and followed the bubbles on the surface to try to pinpoint the skydiver's location in the lake.

But Cordes said the water was too murky. He recalled going down three or four times in the 20-foot-deep water.

It took about 15 minutes for rescuers to reach them, Cordes said.

Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said responders from the base, fire and police departments searched the 10- to 12-acre lake, which is off Himes Avenue. Wade said visibility in the water was about 1 foot.

Tampa police diver Scotty MacLean found the unconscious skydiver about 10:10 a.m. in 20 feet of water, 20 yards off shore, Wade said. Rescuers performed CPR and took the skydiver to Tampa General Hospital in very critical condition.

It was not known Thursday at exactly what time the skydiver died.

Cordes, a radio station videographer from Fort Lauderdale in town for the Super Bowl, said he and Martinez declined any medical attention.

"We wish we had gotten there sooner," Cordes said.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Jump kills Special Operations Command skydiver near MacDill 01/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 7:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Nation

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]
  2. June 26 marks the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series.
  3. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy

    Autos

    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  4. Philando Castile family reaches $3 million settlement in death

    Crime

    MINNEAPOLIS — The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last year, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement in his death, according to an announcement Monday by her attorneys and the Minneapolis suburb that employed the officer.

    A handout dashboard camera image of Officer Jeronimo Yanez firing at Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., July 6, 2016. [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension via The New York Times]
  5. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders

    Cooking

    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.