Efforts to recover any remains or personal effects of Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff have been suspended, according to the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field. Recovery work was halted at 6 p.m. Friday, but according to the 24th SOW, “may resume at a later time pending any new significant evidence or points of interest.”
HURLBURT FIELD — Recovery efforts aimed at finding any trace of Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, the Hurlburt Field airman who on Nov. 5 had what the Air Force is calling an “unplanned parachute departure” from a C-130 combat aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico, have been suspended.
According to a news release from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, recovery efforts were suspended at 6 p.m. Friday, but those efforts “may resume at a later time pending any new significant evidence or points of interest.”
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“We knew they couldn’t search forever,” said Todd Condiff, father of the 29-year-old airman. “We’re pleased with their effort, and grateful for it.”
According to Todd Condiff, the family hadn’t really expected that the body would be recovered.
“It’s a big ocean,” he said. And, he added, “Burial at sea is not that bad.”
Staff Sgt. Condiff, who leaves behind a wife and two young daughters, grew up in suburban Dallas, Texas, and will be honored at a memorial service scheduled for Dallas on Dec. 21, according to his father.
Details of the service have not yet been finalized, Todd Condiff said.
A memorial service also is reportedly being planned for Hurlburt Field, but no details of if, or when, that service might be held were available Monday.
While the recovery is suspended, anyone who is on the water in the area is being asked to “remain vigilant for items of interest such as parachute or other military gear and contact local authorities if anything is sighted,” the 24th SOW noted in its news release.
The search and subsequent recovery effort were conducted around the clock, involving Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and Army personnel, along with state and local law-enforcement and emergency response agencies.
The Coast Guard searched the Gulf of Mexico for four days in the immediate aftermath of Staff Sgt. Condiff’s disappearance. During their search, Coast Guard air and boat crews spent more than 130 hours on scene and searched more than 4,909 square-nautical miles of the Gulf, according to a Coast Guard news release. The Coast Guard used two 45-foot rescue boats, a helicopter and at least one cutter to try to find Condiff.
“While this is a time of great loss across our organization, I am incredibly grateful for the response of our joint teammates, local agencies, and community partners who rallied for 17 straight days to help find our airman,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.
“We may come from different backgrounds,” Allen continued, “but we all share a common bond of service to others.”
At one point, the search covered a swath of the Gulf of Mexico stretching from Destin to Pensacola and extending as far as 30 miles into the gulf.
“Joint recovery crews conducted more than one hundred dives on points of interest spanning from Destin to Pensacola,” according to the 24th SOW news release.
In addition to assets and personnel deployed on and above the water, some military personnel and other emergency responders patrolled the beaches searching for any sign of Condiff.
Also in the news release, Allen said that although the search and recovery effort are “no substitute for bringing him home, I hope the commitment and resolve on display over the last few weeks provides a small measure of comfort for Cole’s loved ones. We vow to honor Cole and his family and never forget his selfless service to our nation.”
Todd Condiff said Monday that the Air Force has kept the family updated continuously on the status of efforts to find Staff Sgt. Condiff.
The Air Force is actively investigating the incident, but is offering no details on that ongoing probe.
“To preserve the integrity of the investigation, no additional details will be released until further notice,” the 24th SOW noted in its news release.
In the meantime, efforts to assist Condiff’s wife and their two young daughters are under way.
A GoFundMe campaign, online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-condiff-family, had raised nearly $108,000 of its $200,000 goal as of Monday.
Also, the Remember the Fallen Games, a benefit for Condiff’s wife and daughter, is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at KC’s Sandbar & Grille at 190 Miracle Strip Parkway NE. More information on the event is available online at https://www.facebook.com/events/428908937771465/.