A missing Air Force airman is presumed dead and the search has now transitioned into a recovery effort, officials said.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, 29, was identified as the missing airman Saturday, the 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs office confirmed to the Daily News.
“Cole was a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace and his family. He was a devoted family man within our squadron, focused on teaching his girls to be adventurous like he was,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “This is a tragic loss to the squadron, the Special Tactics community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time.”
Condiff, originally from Dallas, fell into the Gulf of Mexico, south of Hurlburt Field in Florida, around 11 a.m. Tuesday during a training exercise in a C-130 aircraft.
The Coast Guard searched almost 5,000 square-nautical miles across 130 hours and four days, but were unable to locate Condiff. The search was suspended Friday night and the Air Force took over the recovery effort.
“We would like to extend our gratitude to all of the federal, state and local units that have aided in the search for our Airman, especially the U.S. Coast Guard,” U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, said in a statement. “We will continue our recovery effort as long as circumstances and resources allow to bring our Airman home.”
Condiff served a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spokane, Wash., before enlisting in the Air Force in 2012. He completed deployments in Africa and Afghanistan and was a static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller, and a joint terminal attack controller.
“Cole loved his country and was honored to serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” the Condiff family said in a statement. “Cole had a deep faith in God. Although we mourn, it is through our faith that we take comfort in knowing we will be with him again. He loved his family. He was a devoted husband, father, son, brother and friend. He will be greatly missed by all.”
Condiff is survived by his wife and their two daughters, as well as his parents, sister and two brothers.
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