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US Airman found dead after going missing at Texas beach

Airman 1st Class Elijah R. Posana, security response team member with the 509th Security Forces Squadron, stands in front of B-2 Spirit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 18, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee/Released)
May 05, 2021

Airman 1st Class Elijah R. Posana was found dead on Tuesday after he went missing two days earlier while swimming offshore.

According to an Air Force press release, Posana, 22, was on leave with his family and was swimming approximately 100-feet from shore at Surfside Beach near Freeport, Texas, when an individual reported seeing him being pulled by a rip current. Posana was described as last seen wearing a maroon shirt.

Watchstanders at the beach issued an urgent marine information broadcast, which led a Coast Guard Station Freeport 29-foot Response Boat-Small boat crew and a Coast Guard Air Station Houston MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew to begin searching for Posana.

According to a Coast Guard press release, over the course of 28 hours, Coast Guard and local enforcement agency crews searched an area covering approximately 100 square miles. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, Station Freeport, Airstation Houston, Coast Guard Cutter Tiger Shark and the Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston drone team participated in the search. The Surfside Police Department and the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office also joined in the search.

On Monday, the Coast Guard made the decision to call off the search.

“The decision to suspend a search is always an extremely difficult one to make,” Capt. Jason Smith, the Houston-Galveston Sector commanding officer said. “Every time we run a search and rescue case, we think of the missing as our own and in this case, the missing is a fellow service member which definitely weighs heavily on our hearts. Our deepest condolences go out to the airman’s family and friends.” 

The Air Force said Posana was ultimately found dead on May 4, near Surfside Beach, where he had gone missing.

Posana was assigned to the 509th Security Forces Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. His duties included protecting personnel and assets of the 509th Bomb Wing and its fleet of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.

“We are deeply saddened by the outcome of the search,” said Lt. Col. Devin Sproston, 509th Security Forces commander. “Every defender on our team is part of the fabric of this unit, this base and our security forces family. We held out hope until the last second that our Airman would be found alive. Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts and prayers are with Airman Posana’s family and friends with deepest condolences for this irreplaceable loss. We thank our brother and sister Coast Guardsmen for their valiant efforts in locating our wingman and doing their absolute best through their search efforts.”