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Virginia Beach sailor run over by F/A-18, loses leg aboard USS George H.W. Bush

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Virginia Beach, Va. - The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is said to be one of the most dangerous places in the world.

It’s something Heather Kohlhepp's family learned the hard way, after her son was run over by an F/A-18 Hornet aboard the USS George H.W. Bush while on deployment.

“On June 18th, we got a phone call saying there had been a critical injury to our son on the flight deck during an op,” said Kohlhepp.

Her son Colin, an Ocean Lakes High School graduate, served as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Aircraft Handler.

They direct the movements of the jets on the flight deck - but something went horribly wrong that day when both of Colin’s legs got caught under the wheel of the Hornet.

“I didn’t know how serious it really was until I saw him,” said Kohlhepp.

Heather finally got to see Colin when he made it to Walter Reed Hospital.


Doctors there told the family his right leg needed to be amputated from the knee down.

“I was upset, but the surgeon just looked at me and said, ‘Your son is the only person we've seen that’s been run over by a 50,000 pound plane and survived, so you could be burying your kid right now,’ and that’s a wake-up,” said Kohlhepp.

Colin, at just 20 years old, is taking it well, especially after a visit from his commander-in-chief.

“President Obama came to visit my son yesterday! It was really cool, he took time out of his day, spent about 10 minutes in the room, and it was amazing,” said Kohlhepp.

Heather says the Navy is still investigating the chain of events that led up to her son's injury, but the family tells NewsChannel 3 they know it was just an accident.

“We are not trying to place blame on anything. My son knew when he joined the military that it’s a team effort. It’s no one's fault, it will be investigated, they find where it went wrong, and they will make sure it doesn't happen again,” said Kohlhepp.


  • matt

    The only reason the military will even pretend to care about this soldier is due to the fact the president came and the story made media attention.

    • Robert

      @Matt. You’re a fucking idiot! I have no doubt, when I step foot on that flight deck that everyone up there truly cares! It’s a dangerous environment and sometimes mistakes happen, but do not get on here on start babbling stupid shit about our military forces. I don’t know if you’ve ever served or not, but if you have it wasn’t honorably, or you’d know that (regardless of you what your DD214 says).

      • Paul Gunn

        Robert you are 100% correct having been in the Navy and in the air wing I can say it is a dangerous place and anyone who thinks different has never had the privilege of working around the Hotrods of Aviation. As far as the Navy not caring that is total BS having had to go through some of those investigations one thing you do understand right away is this isn’t some BS coverup.

    • trent

      Spoken by a person who probably never stepped foot on a flight deck or ever served in the military. The flight deck is one of the most dangerous places to work, and even worst when you are doing it on 4 hours of sleep a day. Although I am far from being a fan of the President, I applaud his visit,

  • DieselEMD

    Matt must be what is called a either an unhappy forced out military vet or just making stupid comments comes natural. I can personnally vouch for the caring of 99 percent of the military that cares, the other 1 percent are the ones who normally are the reason accidents happen for to begin with. The team work displayed on the flight deck is something you have to experience in order to understand. When one gets injuried, it affects everyone!

  • matt

    Quick! Someone has an opinion we don’t like, get him!!!! Any how, your experience is not mine not mine yours, same with opinions. I served 12 years in the Army while seeing 3 tours on Iraq and one in Kosovo. All with combat units, not this sorry excuse of a base called ft eustis. I saw first hand what the media shows you a glimpse of, how bad the systems are, how corrupt the people are, how useless and expendable lower enlisted are. I speak from first hand experience of the worst in the military after rising quicy through the ranks and being honorably discharged. To each his own, you showed your pettiness in jumping on and insulting me, bravo. I stand by my opinion.

  • RetNavy92

    In my 20 years in the Navy, over 90% of flight deck accidents was caused by the person that got hurt being complacent. I cannot speak to this incident, but regardless as a sailor I wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Chuck Fitzgerald

    As the Father of a Sailor aboard The Bush, I hope Colin, has a quick recovery and can pick up his life ASAP. Accidents happen, unfortunately, and I am thankful that he survived. Thank you for your service young man and the best of luck to you in the future.


    I wish this young man a speedy recovery and rehab. Airdales do care for each others safety on deck. I know this because I was an ABH on board the Enterprise,85-89. Crash-n-Salvage.

  • Jonny Placido

    Oy, that’s not cool. I definitely want to know who the Director was who allowed him to get run over. I know for a fact that I’d be emergency stopping that jet if there was someone under it.

  • Mac

    My son was part of the litter rescue team that carried this brave sailor to the on board hospital after this tragic accident. We wish you a speedy recovery Colin.

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