- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AP) - Three Georgia-based airmen who had recently arrived for a deployment in Okinawa, Japan, were swept away by high waves as they explored the island on a day off, U.S. Air Force officials said Wednesday.

The dead were identified as two Georgia Air National Guard members, Senior Master Sgt. James Swartz and Master Sgt. Daniel Paschal, as well as an active duty Air Force member, Staff Sgt. Joshua Schoenhoff. All three were based at Robins Air Force Base in central Georgia and had arrived for temporary duty at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa about a week and a half earlier, Air Force officials said.

They were visiting the northwest coast of the island. Swartz’ body was recovered the same day, and Schoenhoff’s and Paschal’s bodies were recovered a few days later, officials said.

A fourth Robins-based airman who was with the three men was injured but survived and is recuperating on Okinawa, officials said.

Swartz and Paschal served with the 116th Air Control Wing, and Schoenhoff served with the 461st Air Control Wing.

“This tragic event has impacted both of our wings deeply and we will feel a great sense of loss for a long time to come,” Col. Henry Cyr commander of the 461st told reporters Wednesday.

Swartz, 51, had been in the military for 33 years and was an aerospace propulsion superintendent. Paschal, 34, was an aerospace propulsion craftsman and had served in the military 11 years. They were both full-time National Guardsmen, said Col. Kevin Clotfelter, commander of the 116th.

“We lost two of our best,” Clotfelter said.

Schoenhoff was an instrument flight control systems specialist and was recently named maintenance professional of the year for the 461st maintenance group, Cyr said, adding that Schoenhoff was a young leader rising through the ranks.

Clotfelter and Cyr said they couldn’t release many details about the circumstances surrounding the deaths because the investigation is ongoing.

A typhoon passed several hundred miles north of Okinawa the day the men were swept away, Cyr said. The waves were still high, but there were no significant onshore warnings, Cyr said.

The bodies of the three men left Okinawa Wednesday to be transported to Seoul, South Korea, where they will be examined by a medical examiner, and then they will be sent back to the U.S., officials said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide