A U.S. Navy Seal died after his parachute failed to deploy thousands of feet in the air, according to an autopsy obtained by NBC 7 on Friday.
Commander Seth A. Stone, 41, died September 30 while Skydiving in Perris, California. Stone was assigned to Special Operations Command Pacific and was on leave at the time of his death.
In the coroner investigation of the autopsy, a nurse stated hospital staff was informed Stone jumped from a hot air balloon, 4,000 feet [in the air], without a reserve, and his parachute "did not fully open."
The nurse said he had a hard landing, feet first. Paramedics found him with "agonal breathing."
Stone’s girlfriend, Katie Taylor, was in the hot air balloon when he jumped, according to the coroner investigation.
"When S. Stone jumped at approximately 6,000-feet, his parachute became entangled and only partially opened," the coroner wrote. "One side of the parachute collapsed."
The coroner said Stone was seen attempting to guide the parachute "with one hand."
The highly-decorated combat veteran completed multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq in 2006, Stone led his team against an enemy force, directing reinforcements, providing cover fire and dragging a critically wounded comrade to safety, the U.S. Navy said. For this, Stone was awarded a second Silver Star.
His awards and decorations also include the Silver Star with Gold Star, Bronze Star with Valor device, Army Commendation Medal with Valor device, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and Meritorious Unit Commendation.
"As a Navy SEAL Cmdr. Stone epitomized the warrior ethos, risking his life on many occasions in combating our nations’ enemies," a statement released Monday by the U.S. Navy read. "He saved countless U.S. service members and helped bring stability to embattled regions of the world. Outside of the military, he was liked by everyone fortunate enough to cross his path. He made great friendships and found solace in pursuing his passion for surfing and other adventurous activities."
Stone graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1999. His past assignments include Naval Special Warfare Command and the USS Gettysburg (CG-64).
The Navy said Stone’s military training includes Navy Freefall Parachutist, Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE), Airborne, Special Operations Survival Training, Tomahawk Watch Officer, Basic Aegis Officer Console Operator, Surface Warfare Gunnery and Harpoon Officer.
US Army Major Kevin Boyd told NBC 7 on Friday "everyone who worked with Stone loved him."
"He was one of those guys that you work with and you miss when you leave," Boyd said. "He helped anyone and everyone out."
Master Rigger M. Jones told the coroner there was damage noted to the parachute consistent with it "becoming entangled," but nothing obvious to indicate why it did not open properly. The parachute was "in good condition," according to the Master.
Boyd told NBC 7 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the case.
FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor wrote to NBC 7 via email that the FAA will investigate.
"Our focus is on whether the parachutes were properly packed by the appropriate person," Gregor wrote.