An Air Force parachutist whose leg was severed in a sky-diving accident 6,500 above the ground remained hospitalized Monday, as military authorities launched an accident investigation.
Sgt. Sanya Brockinton, 28, of Highlands, Tex., "struck the aircraft" as he leaped out of a twin-propeller C-23 Sherpa cargo plane Friday afternoon on a training jump, military authorities said in a prepared statement on Monday. His right leg, the statement said, was severed below the knee.
Officials said they would release no further details on the accident until an Air Force accident review team completed its investigation, a process that may take several months, according to Gary Hatch, an Edwards Air Force Base spokesman.
"That's all I can tell you--he made contact with the plane," Hatch said.
Brockinton, who was able to pull his parachute cord despite the injury, was in stable condition Monday at Naval Medical Center San Diego, where he was taken by a medical helicopter Friday afternoon.
His severed limb was recovered in the jump zone shortly after the accident. "It was transported along with him, but doctors were not able to reattach it," said Pat Kelly, a hospital spokeswoman.
Because the jump was a military operation involving Air Force personnel, the Federal Aviation Administration will not be involved in the investigation, federal officials said.
Brockinton was a member of the 412th Operations Support Squadron at Edwards, working as a life-support technician. These technicians inspect and maintain Air Force flight crew equipment, including parachutes, helmets and flight suits.
Brockinton also participated in parachute test flights to evaluate aircraft for military sky-diving operations, Hatch said.
On Friday he was on a standard proficiency parachute jump, Hatch said, which Air Force personnel complete regularly to keep their sky-diving skills sharp.
Fred O'Donnell, an FAA spokesman who spent 30 years in the armed forces, said military personnel commonly receive extra pay if they are qualified for parachute jumping, but must jump at least once every 90 days to maintain this status.
"They usually jump more often than that," O'Donnell said.
The jump took place near the civilian-run California City Sky-dive Center in Kern County, which is regularly used by Air Force personnel.
Brockinton, who had about three years of parachute jumping experience, was on his fourth jump of the day when the accident happened.
"This was not his initial jump or his initial training," Hatch said.