Jacksonville fighter pilot takes flight for first time since near death experience

Local fighter pilot flies for the first time in months

Jacksonville, Fla. — On Monday, a local fighter pilot returned to the skies for the first time in months.

Jonathan Kassebaum, Lieutenant Colonel at Florida Air National Guard, tells us he was nearly killed in October 2019 after he was shocked in his backyard pool while working on a wiring project.

Today, Action News Jax was there as Kassebaum taxied in his F-15 after completing his first flight in months. His wife and daughters were there to celebrate a safe landing.

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Kassembaum spoke to Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson shortly after landing, and recounted what he missed most about flying.

“The smells, the feeling of G’s, the seeing Jacksonville from the sky, like all the stuff, I missed it,” he said.

On October 25, 2019, Kassebaum says his heart stopped beating for at least 12 minutes after he was shocked while working on a wiring project in his backyard.

He tells us it all happened after his dog cried out after jumping into their pool, and he went in after the dog. He says didn’t know the pool had been electrified.

“When I grabbed onto the metal hand rail to get out, that grounded me. My daughter came out,” said Kassembaum, as he was overcome with emotion while recounting the events of that day. “She came out and I just told her, ‘Help me I’m stuck, turn off the breaker.’”

He tells us the on-site contractors performed CPR until police and paramedics arrived to take over the life-saving measures.

“All in all, it was about 12-13 minutes that I had no heart rate,” he said.

Kassebaum says it wasn’t being able to fly again that kept him going, but thought of his family, that kept him motivated.

“From my perspective, I know that this is a gift of being able to fly,” he said. “If you told me tomorrow that I couldn’t fly again, then, so be it.”