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2019 Uvalde Invitational - Tragedy at Uvalde

As with all race days, the pilots gather in the tiedown area to describe the highs and lows of the task and enjoy a cold beverage with friends and the end of Day 3 began that same way. By 7 pm everyone was back except Steven Coggins flying JS-1 “DT”. With 2 hours of sunlight left and calls on the radio unanswered we put “Uvalde Air” up to increase the range of our transmissions. We soon came up with a location near the 1st turnpoint from his SPOT GPS transmitter and sent two aircraft to search that area which they did until it became too dark to look any further. While we all expected a phone call from the pilot but having no contact with Steven since launch we moved into Search and Rescue mode with calls to law enforcement and the FAA Flight Service Station. We were amazed at the resources available to us with these two calls and in short order there were dozens of agencies and hundreds of people looking for Steven. Throughout the night we talked with the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and the Civil Air Patrol who were working hard to locate Steven. These groups were using cell phone data along with civil and military radar to triangulate his position and by 5 AM we had a new position to search that was several miles from his last SPOT report.  Throughout the night, deputies with the Cotulla Sheriffs department stayed at the last known position and continued searching for Steven showing the dedication and service our men and women in uniform put forth.

 

The Uvalde team assembled at 6 AM after very little sleep and launched two aircraft for the new position we received from the AFRCC. After a search of one and a half hours, Conrad Huffstutler flying the towplane, located the wreckage and continued to fly cover while ground assets were directed in. Within a short period of time there were 6 agencies on site to assist where needed. While Steven did not survive the accident he passed immediately upon impact and did not suffer which provided a minor blessing to this tragic event.

 

It is hard to imagine the grief that comes with learning that your son or daughter is killed unexpectedly and one I hope to never experience. David and Cindy Coggins had to suffer this news Wednesday morning and all our hearts were aching for them. Stevens death will live with them forever and will always be in the minds of us who knew him and flew with him and can only carry on with the knowledge that the family hold nothing against the sport and wish us all to go on. We all face this possibility when we strap on our parachutes and climb into the cockpit but the passing of a fellow competitor brings the reality home.

 

In remembrance of Steven Coggins, age 33, we dedicate our contest to him and our efforts to a safer sport.

Posted: 8/7/2019


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