Cadet First Class Kaleb Estes

Air Force Academy Cadet Dies in Skydiving Accident

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. May 9, 2017: An Air Force Academy senior died Sunday in a sport parachuting accident unrelated to his military duties near Calhan, Colo., some 50 miles east of Colorado Springs.

Cadet First Class Kaleb Estes, who finished high school in Hartselle, Ala., was an English major scheduled to graduate May 24. He was an experienced skydiver with more than 500 jumps in his log, according to his Facebook profile. He had been involved in sport parachuting since before he entered the Air Force Academy.

Estes had permission from his command for the recreational jump Sunday. He jumped using his own equipment, as a customer of Out of the Blue Skydiving in Calhan, Colorado just outside of Colorado Springs. Skydiving is reported to be a popular sport among Air Force Academy cadets.

Out of the Blue Skydiving issued a statement of condolence Sunday and is cooperating with the Federal Aviation Administration and local authorities.

Most details of the accident are under investigation, but Estes appeared to have died as a result of a hard landing under his auxiliary chute. Deputies were still searching for Estes’ main parachute Monday, said El Paso County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Jacqueline Kirby. Witnesses on the ground who called 911 attempted to revive the cadet with CPR, and Ellicott firemen continued treatment when they arrived, but county authorities describe him as dead at the scene.

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, issued a statement expressing the school’s grief and condolences to Estes’ family, saying, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Kaleb Estes and our thoughts are with his friends, classmates and loved ones. We are ready to support Cadet Estes’ family as well as his (academy) family through this difficult time.”

The sport skydiving culture upholds constant and relentless safety precautions and safe operating procedures for beginners and seasoned jumpers alike, according to the Virginia-based U.S. Parachute Association (USPA). Their records suggest skydivers and their trainees make about 4 million parachute jumps every year, with an average of 21 fatalities. “Obviously there are inherent risks–you are jumping out of an airplane–but the accident risk is extremely low,” said USPA spokesperson Nancy Koreen.

Last August, an Out of the Blue aircraft took up 13 skydivers, who parachuted to safety when the aircraft engine caught fire. The pilot made an emergency landing.

Source: Denver Post

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