Records obtained by civilian law enforcement and medical officials reveal that an Arizona-based Airman drowned after suffering a mysterious heart attack.
Staff Sergeant Kory Wade of the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was reported missing on June 14.
The 33-year-old had gone missing at Roosevelt Lake, a large man-made lake that hosts combat search and rescue [CSAR] drills for the military.
His body was recovered several days later, following a massive search effort by local, state, and federal entities.
Wade served as one of the 48th’s Medical Logistics Technicians.
“Wade was a model airman and consummate professional,” 355th Wing Commander Col. Scott Mills said in a statement at the time. “He will be deeply missed.”
A subsequent investigation revealed that Wade —who at the time of his death was operating a jetski used for maritime search-and-rescue— suffered a heart attack before presumably falling into the water.
His body was located 100 feet below the surface.
“After … reviewing the course of events with several detectives and the medical examiner, it appears [Wade] was riding the Jet Ski and experienced a heart attack,” the Gila County Sheriff’s report said.
“The medical staff involved concluded the medical event did not kill [Wade],” the sheriff’s report said. “It is likely the heart attack is what prevented him from being able to swim.”
Wade was not wearing a personal flotation device when the heart attack occurred and therefore had nowhere to go but beneath the water.
At the time of the exercise, it was determined that Wade was simply enjoying a moment of fun before having to get to work
“They were ahead of schedule, so they rode the Jet Skis around for a while,” the sheriff’s report said. “When the operation time was approaching, [redacted] was in position and [Wade] was riding around … close enough [that] he could get into position when the air units arrived.”
A contractor noticed an unmanned jetski with a killswitch cable missing and became concerned.
Initially, the contractor thought Wade might have been playing a joke on him, but after being unable to locate the Airman, he called for help.
A drone recovered Wade’s body on the 17th of June.
Wade was wearing a GoPro at the time of his death, but the files had become corrupted— likely due to the depth of the water.
Wade’s loss has had an effect on his colleagues.
“Kory’s dedication to his job and unit were unparalleled, and every conversation with him felt like you were talking to a close friend you have had for years,” 48th Rescue Squadron commander Maj. Waseem Saed said at a memorial service in June. “His loss leaves a tremendous hole within the organization, and he will truly be missed by all who knew him.”
According to the Air Force Times, Wade’s father, Mike Wade, had returned to the site of his son’s death over the summer.
“I keep thinking it’s just a long dream that I need to wake up from,” he said.
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