Accident Report Offers No Cause for PJ’s Fatal Injury

TSgt. Sean Barton was fatally injured in an Oct. 21, 2014, incident in a training tower in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the veteran pararescueman told an assisting PJ that he wanted to go fast in a descent process called belaying, according to an Air Force Special Operations Command ground accident investigation report. The report said Barton, who was assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan, attached the belaying rope into his seat harness and a Gri-Gri 2, a locking device that applies friction on the rope to control rate of descent. He then told the assisting PJ, “come on, I want to go down fast. Let’s do this.” The other PJ then activated the Gri-Gri 2 and Barton pushed off from a platform, dropping out of sight. He impacted a metal I beam about 17 feet below, sustaining severe head, neck and lung injuries. Despite treatment by Air Force personnel at the scene and in hospitals in Nepal and Thailand, Barton died of his injuries on Oct. 30. The report said “an opinion determining the cause of the accident is not required, and thus, was not determined.” Barton, a highly decorated 10-year Air Force veteran with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, was helping to train Nepalese Rangers. (Read the full GAIB report; Caution, large-sized file.)