A tactical air control party airman's death last year occurred when he accidentally pulled his reserve chute during a training jump, causing him to hit the side of the aircraft, an Air Force investigation found.
Master Sgt. Josh Gavulic, a 17th Special Tactics Squadron TACP member,died Feb. 21, 2014, while on a free-fall training mission out of an SC-7 Skyvan near Elroy, Arizona.
As the aircraft approached a drop zone at about 8:53 a.m. during a military free-fall canopy control course, Gavulic opened a ventilation door on the aircraft and sat down nearby to put on a rucksack. Gavulic said something, getting the attention of another jumper, who saw Gavulic's quick-release handle for his reserve parachute partially pulled. Gavulic leaned forward, prompting his reserve parachute flap to pop over, and fall through the open ventilation door. In about two seconds, he was pulled through the ventilation door opening, tearing off his rucksack, damaging the door and killing him instantly.
He landed about 10 minutes later under a fully deployed parachute.
Gavulic, 34, was a highly trained jumpmaster, Ranger and experienced TACP airman who deployed 10 times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He served in the Air Force for 16 years, earning three Bronze Stars, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor, two Air Force Commendation Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.
The Air Force Accident Investigation Board report released June 2 concluded the incident was caused by Gavulic accidentally pulling his reserve parachute ripcord while putting on his rucksack near the open door. Another contributing factor was the crew opening the ventilation door, which was big enough for the parachute but too small for a person to pass through, without opening the cargo door. This didn't violate military or civilian guidance, but contributed to the incident, the board found.