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Officer breaks leg during training jump

A member of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base broke the two bones in her lower right leg during a parachute jump Wednesday at the Zephryhills Airport. Sarah B. Kovel, a Navy lieutenant assigned to the special command, was in good condition at the base hospital, where she was taken by ambulance shortly after the mid-morning accident.

Mike Morgan, a district chief with Pasco County Fire Rescue, said Kovel "came down and hit her leg on the runway" at the airport, causing "a severe break to her right leg."

"Our understanding is that as she was landing her leg twisted underneath her, causing the break to the two bones in her lower leg," Morgan said.

Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Armstrong said Kovel was participating in a free-fall military parachute jump when she broke the tibia and fibula, the two leg bones between the knee and ankle.

Another MacDill spokesman, George Grimes, said Kovel was one of several members of her command undergoing routine training Wednesday morning.

Grimes didn't have details on how many command members were at the exercise.

Practice jumps commonly are made at the Zephyrhills Airport, he said.

The U.S. Special Operations Command, composed of about 575 military members from the various branches of service, performs clandestine operations.

The command, established at MacDill in 1987, played a key role in Operation Desert Storm.

_ Times staff writer Jeff Testerman contributed to this report.

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