Pfc. Megan E. Adelman was so excited Monday after she completed her first parachute jump at Fort Benning that she called her mother.
"She loved it," said Melissa Adelman, whose daughter was completing her last week of Airborne training. "At first she was scared when she saw the doors on the plane open. But she didn't let it get to her and did it."
The mother didn't expect to hear from her daughter until her Airborne graduation on Friday. But she got a call Tuesday from Adelman's husband, delivering tragic news.
"I thought it was a lie," she said.
Megan Adelman, 19, of Alliance, Ohio, died Tuesday afternoon while attempting her second of five required jumps in the Airborne Course. Fort Benning's post commander, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, said her parachute failed to deploy correctly during a jump at Fort Benning's Fryar Drop Zone in Russell County, Ala.
"Our hearts and prayers and our thoughts go out to that great family," Freakley said. "We want them to know we are with them in this terrible loss."
After graduating from high school last summer, Adelman joined the Army and attended basic and advanced training at Fort Jackson, S.C. There, she was known as "Speedy Gonzales" for her running skills, her family said.
She married her high school sweetheart, Pfc. Joshua Tenney, in December. He is assigned to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga.
In early January, Adelman came to Fort Benning to attend basic Airborne training. She was assigned to go to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., upon graduation.
"She was energetic and full of life,'' said her sister, Tina King, 25, of Alliance, Ohio. "She was a kick-butt girl. She took no prisoners. She didn't let anything hold her back."
Back home, family and friends grieved their loss. At Alliance High School, teachers and counselors notified friends Wednesday.
Al Eibel, who coached Adelman and her twin brother, Matthew, in cross country for three years, said she helped her team to the state championships. The last time he saw his former star was during the Christmas holidays. She was wearing her Army sweats.
"She loved the Army," he said. "She never complained. And she got a kick in being the fastest in basic training."
Her sister, Tina, last spoke to her on Saturday.
"I wish I could have talked to her longer," she said. "I was in a hurry. I didn't mean to cut our call short, but for some reason I told her, 'I love you so much,' '' she said. "She assured us we wouldn't lose her, but then this happened."
Matthew Adelman, who stands 6 feet 4, said he used to wrestle his twin sister. She was 5 feet 3 inches tall.
They spoke on the phone Monday after her first jump. "She was great," he said. "She liked it a lot. She told me to go skydiving sometime."
Adelman is also survived by her father, Mark Adelman, and another brother, Marcus, 20.
A memorial for Adelman will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Fort Benning's main chapel on post. Students from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment will escort her body to her hometown. The family has not yet made funeral arrangements.
Col. James Yarbrough, Fort Benning's deputy commanding general, arrived at the scene of the accident in Russell County, Ala., soon after Adelman fell.
"They don't happen very often," he said of such accidents. "We looked at the parachute itself and there were no obvious blatant signs of sabotage, tampering or anything from her parachute.''
The parachute is designed to open four seconds after the student exits the plane at 1,250 feet. If the parachute fails to deploy correctly, the student is trained to activate the reserve parachute. Yarbrough said investigators are trying to determine whether Adelman attempted to open her reserve parachute.
Yarbrough also said the C-17 aircraft was immediately isolated at Lawson Army Airfield where Fort Benning officials reviewed data from the plane. The investigation is being conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division and technical expert riggers.
The results could come as soon as today.
Tuesday's accident is the first fatal parachute training accident in nearly 15 years.
Parachute training, suspended after Tuesday's accident, resumed on Wednesday.