Air Force F-15 Pilot Makes 1st Flight Since Near-Death Electrocution Experience

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Kassebaum with his family. (Courtesy Photo)
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Kassebaum, Commander, 125th Operations Support Flight, with his family. (Courtesy Photo)

An Air Force F-15 Eagle pilot took to the skies for the first time Monday following a 255-day hiatus from flight because of accidental electrocution that caused his heart to stop for nearly 12 minutes.

Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Kassebaum, commander of 125th Operations Support Flight for the Florida Air National Guard, earned his wings back with a training sortie, telling a local news station that it felt like being home.

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"It feels normal," he told News4Jax following his flight at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base. Describing the sortie, he said he and his counterparts practiced dogfighting.

"One of us starts offensive and one of us starts defensive, and it's a game of cat and mouse -- dogfighting -- and it's probably the single coolest thing that aviation has produced, and so we practiced," he said.

The flight marked a milestone for the pilot since his near-death experience in October.

Kassebaum had been working on a rewiring project in his backyard Oct. 25 when he heard the family dog in distress in the pool, according to an Air Force release.

He jumped into the pool after the dog, not realizing that a severed ground wire was electrifying the water. Feeling zapping sensations, Kassebaum grabbed a steel handrail in an attempt to get out, but instead became the conduit for the electrical charge.

"Unable to move from the waist down, Kassebaum called his daughter for help who ultimately called a work crew over to assist," according to the release.

Kassebaum's daughter, Juliet, told News4Jax earlier this year that the crew had arrived early to work on another project.

"The crew immediately cut off all power and pulled Kassebaum from the water," the release states.

Emergency services arrived on the scene to revive Kassebaum, who said his heart had stopped for "around 12 or 13 minutes."

"It all worked out great," he said Monday.

Kassebaum, who is also a local minister, was able to get the dog, an Australian shepherd named Phoenix, out of the pool during the incident.

"My heart started back up, and it hasn't stopped [beating] since," he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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