According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Navy SEAL Commander Seth A. Stone died in a recreational parachuting accident in Perris, California, on Saturday, September 30, 2017, when his parachute failed to open. The accident occurred while Stone was off duty.
Stone, originally from Texas, graduated with Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training Class 241 on November 15, 2002, in Coronado, CA. He began his career in Naval Special Warfare (NSW) with SEAL Team THREE on the West Coast.
Given that the accident occurred while Stone was off duty, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the incident, which occurred after Stone jumped out of a hot air balloon in Riverside County. His parachute then failed to open properly, and he perished upon striking the ground. It was unclear as to why or how his parachute malfunctioned. The FAA said it typically investigates whether parachutes were packed properly when it investigates skydiving accidents.
According to the Union-Tribune, Commander Stone was most recently assigned to United States Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) in Hawaii, a unit that is staffed primarily with personnel from the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) in San Diego.
Stone was a combat-decorated SEAL officer, who earned two Silver Stars, including one for his actions in 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. During a firefight there on September 29, 2006, Stone and the SEALs under his command were attacked with small arms fire and rockets. According to the citation for the Silver Star, Stone led a group of SEALs through the firefight to another group of wounded SEALs, and then assisted in their evacuation.
During the same firefight, one SEAL serving under Stone — SEAL Petty Officer Second Class Michael Mansoor — threw himself on an enemy grenade to save the lives of the men around him, and lost his life in the process. Mansoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his action.
Commander Stone also received a Bronze Star with “V” device for valor, and the Navy Commendation Medal. He received his commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1999, and then went on to become a surface warfare officer before he was accepted into BUD/S and became a SEAL officer.
Sadly, Stone is just the latest Navy SEAL to be killed in a parachuting accident. The last SEAL killed in such an incident was Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SO1) Remington J. Peters, a member of the Leap Frogs, who also died after a parachute malfunction on May 28, 2017. The Leap Frogs bills itself as the “United States Navy’s parachute team,” and it is usually made up of SEALs and other naval special operations personnel.
A Military Times report from February 2017 pointed out that 11 special operations personnel had died in parachute training accidents between 2011 and 2016. Since 2004, furthermore, 21 U.S. SOF personnel have died in parachute training accidents.
Featured image courtesy of MC3 Michelle L. Kapica/U.S. Navy.