Air Force releases report on mountaineering death of 24th SOW paratrooper


HURLBURT FIELD – A U.S. Air Force paratrooper (PJ) who was part of the 24th Special Operations Wing based out of Hurlburt Field died in a fall from a cliff top after installing anchoring equipment for helping less experienced team members during mountain climbing and lifesaving training last year in Idaho, according to an Air Force Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report released Wednesday.

RELATED: (Oct 2019) Hurlburt-based Wing Airman Dies in Training Accident

Technology. Sgt. Peter Kraines, 33, who was based at Pope Army Airfield in North Carolina, died Oct. 8 while training in the Black Cliff climbing area between Boise and Lucky Peak.

RELATED: (May 2020) AFSOC Resumes Skydiving, Diving and Mountaineering Training

According to a press release from the Hurlburt Field-based 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 that included himself- same and two other Para-rescuers, as well as two combat controllers. .

Air Force PCs perform personnel recovery, including combat rescue operations, in a wide variety of terrain. The service’s combat controllers deploy stealthily in combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones and airfields.

RELATED: (November 2019) AFSOC Commander Slife Addresses Skydiving Training Incident

“The team’s goals were for the PCs to maintain their proficiency in traditional climbing techniques and athleticism, while conducting familiarization training for CCTs (Combat Controllers),” the AFSOC statement said.

At the time of the crash, the statement said, Kraines was helping two crew members rappelling down a cliff when a safety anchor system failed, “pulling the rope system and Kraines off the top of the cliff. “.

Specifically, as stated in the Accident Investigation Bureau report, Kraines had assessed that a permanent anchor attached under the edge of the cliff “created a dangerous situation for less experienced climbers and had chosen to establish an anchor. traditional rock protection using protective climbing gear “.

Afterward, Kraines latched onto the anchor system to help two other team members rappelling down the cliff. The first team member reached the bottom of the cliff, but as the second team member descended, a piece of the climbing protective gear came loose and he fell a few feet .

Additionally, when the equipment came 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 about 63 feet. .

The Kraines team, together with first responders, “attempted resuscitation without success,” according to AFSOC’s press release on Wednesday.

First responders “subsequently declared (Kraines) dead at the scene due to injuries sustained during the fall,” according to the AIB report.

While the report concluded that “(there) is no evidence that any climbing and mountaineering equipment malfunctioned at the time of the accident,” it notes that one of the climbers assisted by Kraines raised a question about the anchor system.

This team member, according to the AIB report, “sensed a change in the anchor and asked (Kraines) if the system was still secure.”

The report states that Kraines “rechecked the anchor to ensure it was properly placed.

Kraines’ death was one of the reasons AFSOC suspended mountaineering, diving and skydiving training late last year. All of that training was reinstated in May.

The death of another Airman Hurlburt, 24th Special Operations Wing Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, also factored in the five-month suspension from Air Force parachuting, mountaineering and diving training.

On November 5 last year, Condiff, 29, experienced what the Air Force calls an “unscheduled parachute departure” of a C-130 aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico a few miles from Hurlburt Field . A massive search over several days failed to find any trace of Condiff.

The Air Force has yet to release any report on its apparently ongoing investigation into Condiff’s death.

On March 19 of this year, another airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing died after he went missing during surface swimming training at Naval Base Panama City.

Airman 1st Class Keigan Baker, 24, a Special Tactics combat controller, was participating in the Air Force combat dive course at the time of the incident. A Navy and Coast Guard rescue effort recovered Baker’s body hours after he went missing.