Jacksonville fighter pilot who survived near-death experience regains his wings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lt. Colonel Jonathan Kassebaum, with the Florida Air National Guard, waited months to regain his wings after a terrifying close call.

Monday’s training flight was more than exhilarating for the church pastor and father of three.

“Honestly, it kind of feels like home,” Kassebaum said. “It feels normal.”

In October, Kassebaum nearly lost his life while doing renovations on his family’s home in Mandarin. He shared his near-death experience with News4Jax in January.

Kassebaum became paralyzed in waist deep water after jumping in the pool to rescue the family dog. He had no idea the pool water was electrically charged due to a tree limb falling and hitting a junction box.

“When I grabbed onto the metal handrail to get out, that grounded me,” he said.

That’s when Kassebaum’s daughter came out.

“I just told her, ‘Help me, I’m stuck. Turn off the breaker,‘” he said.

She helped save his life, but then he slipped underwater, unconscious for about three minutes. Construction workers saw Kassebaum and pulled him out.

“All in all it was about 12 to 13 minutes,” Kassebaum said. “Ambulance came, defibbed, my heart started back up and it hasn’t stopped since.”

The minister was able to share his story with his congregation.

“God saw fit to keep me around,” he said.

He’s grateful for his daughter’s quick thinking, and the quick actions of the workers who pulled him out of the pool and attempted CPR for seven minutes before emergency personnel arrived.

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