A specialized Navy team is searching the Gulf of Mexico near Hurlburt Field in an effort to recover any remains or personal effects of Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, a Special Tactics airman who on Nov. 5 experienced what the Air Force is calling an "unplanned parachute departure" from a C-130 combat aircraft during a parachute training mission. In the meantime, a GoFundMe effort aimed at helping to support Condiff’s wife and two young daughters has expanded its goal to $200,000, after surpassing its initial $100,000 goal.

HURLBURT FIELD — U.S. Navy personnel are continuing to search an area of the Gulf of Mexico near Hurlburt Field for signs of 29-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, who is missing and presumed deceased after a Nov. 5 parachuting accident over the Gulf.


In the meantime, a GoFundMe effort aimed at assisting Condiff’s wife, Rachael, and their two young daughters, has surpassed its $100,000 goal, prompting organizers to set a new goal of $200,000.


And in another sign of community support for the ongoing search for any signs of Condiff, an effort is underway to prompt local restaurants to feed the Navy personnel using Hurlburt Field as a base for their ongoing recovery operations.


Condiff, a Special Tactics airman, was serving as jumpmaster aboard a C-130 combat aircraft during a parachute training exercise late on the morning of Nov. 5 when his parachute deployed and he experienced what the Air Force is calling an "unplanned parachute departure" from the aircraft.


According to his father, who has praised the Air Force for their openness regarding the incident, Condiff, part of the Hurlburt Field-based 23rd Special Tactics Squadron of the 24th Special Operations Wing, was performing safety checks on other airmen when his parachute deployed.


The incident occurred about 2 miles south of Hurlburt Field and the search for Condiff eventually covered 700 square miles, extending 30 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from Destin to Pensacola. In addition to the Coast Guard, the initial search involved units of the Air Force, Army, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with local sheriff’s offices and emergency response agencies.


The Coast Guard called off its search on Nov. 8, and the Air Force and Navy have headed the subsequent and ongoing recovery effort.


On Friday, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) announced that it had launched the R/V Patriot, equipped with Klein side-scan sonars, six unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and three remotely operated vehicles (ROV) on an around-the-clock basis in the recovery effort.


The Navy is rotating eight-person crews on and off the R/V Patriot, which also is accompanied by two smaller boats as it continues its high-technology efforts to recover Condiff.


According to the 24th Special Operations Wing public affairs office, the R/V Patriot’s initial recovery effort covers an 11 square-mile area about 3 miles south of Hurlburt Field. But the 24 SOW went on to note that "(t)he entirety of the search area continues to fluctuate and adjust based on findings, conditions and resources."



Asked whether the currently focused Navy search was an indication that some sign of Condiff had been found near the area of the Nov. 5 incident, the 24th SOW responded in a Friday email only that "(t)he Naval Surface Warfare Center heard about this case and reached out to the 24th Special Operations Wing offering support and specialized equipment to help locate Staff Sgt. Condiff. We’re very appreciative of all the units that have contributed to the search and recovery efforts to bring our Airman home."


In a Navy news release, NSWC PCD commanding officer Capt. Aaron Peters said, "The death of Staff Sgt. Condiff is devastating and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his unit. We are hopeful that our efforts bring him home and offer some measure of relief to his family."


NSWC PCD conducts research, development, test, and evaluation of mine warfare systems, mines, naval special warfare systems, diving and life support systems, and other missions in coastal regions. NSWC PCD has been called to support similar recovery operations in the past, according to a Navy news release.


In other developments related to the incident involving Staff Sgt. Condiff, the GoFundMe effort to help support his wife and two young daughters, continuing online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-condiff-family, had raised $101,676 as of Sunday afternoon, one week after the campaign began. Many of the 1,200 donations received as of Sunday afternoon were between $10 and $100, with many others at $100 or more.


Also related to the ongoing recovery effort, a social media post that began circulating Saturday urged people with connections to local restaurants to consider donating food to held feed the Navy personnel stationed at Hurlburt Field for the recovery effort. The reported organizer of the effort was not immediately available for comment Sunday afternoon.