A major combined Air Force, Coast Guard, and Army search is underway over the Gulf of Mexico after a training exercise went wrong.
The Air Force said an airman only identified as a staff sergeant "exited a C-130 aircraft" over the Gulf of Mexico during a parachute training exercise Tuesday, after which the crew member disappeared from the airplane's view and couldn't be relocated.
"Search and recovery crews were immediately called to aid in locating the Airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday," an official military statement said.
It's unclear if the missing airman was meant to exit the aircraft at that location, perhaps accidentally falling out prematurely, or if it's simply that relocation efforts failed after the jump.
A CNN report described that the airman "fell out" of the plane, based on a Coast Guard statement:
The US Coast Guard is helping with the search for a missing Air Force airman who fell out of a plane during a jump training mission, Coast Guard Mobile Sector spokesman Juston Lee told CNN.
The missing staff sergeant deployed his parachute and fell about 1,500 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, he said. His name and age have not been released.
"The crew aboard the C-130 plane said the airman hit the water and was treading water, but when they turned back around to find him, they couldn't see him" the Coast Guard statement described further.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is also reported to be assisting in the rescue operation.
Rescuers have expanded their search of a broad area south of Santa Rosa Island, Florida based on shifting currents in the area, a follow-up Coast Guard statement said.