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JBER airman's passing marks fourth death in February

Jerzy Shedlock

Another Alaska-based airman has died, according to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson officials. Thirty-three-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Davis is the fourth JBER serviceman found dead this month.

Davis was pronounced dead at his off-base residence in Eagle River on Sunday, a JBER press release says. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Anchorage Police Department are investigating the circumstances of Davis’ death.

APD spokesperson Anita Shell said Davis’ girlfriend called 911 shortly before 6 a.m. and reported Davis wasn’t breathing. She also told police Davis was recovering from a recent back surgery.

Police do not suspect foul play, Shell said.

Davis served as an aerospace maintenance craftsman for the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the Anchorage base, an installation that 16,000 airman call home. He was a West Virginia native who joined the Air Force in April 2001 and arrived at JBER in Nov. 2011. He was previously stationed in Missouri and Texas.

“Sam will be missed,” said Air Force Major Michael Bliss in the release. “He was a great member of the Air Force family. His family is in our prayers.”

A memorial service is set for 9 a.m. Thursday at JBER Chapel 1.

The second most recent death of a JBER soldier was Staff Sgt. Darian Miller, who was pronounced dead on Feb. 18. On Friday, the Air Force issued a statement saying Miller’s death was under investigation but offered no additional details.

Miller, 38, was originally from Marion, S.C. His position was described as a non-commissioned officer in charge of knowledge operations management for the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron.

Miller joined the Air Force in September 1994 and arrived at JBER in August 2011. An Air Force official said Wednesday his death is still under investigation.

Three days prior to Miller’s death, Senior Airman Katrina M. Jackson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 22-year-old native of Universal City, Texas, was on base at the time of her death. Although officials reported Jackson likely shot herself, the circumstances of her death are being investigated.

Jackson joined the Air Force in September 2010 and came to Alaska in May 2011.

And Army Sgt. Okan Murat Cetinbag died Feb. 11, four days after suffering injuries at his home on JBER. Cetinbag, 24, planned to go out with some fellow soldiers, a rare occurrence, the night of his injury, his wife Jazzmine Cetinbag told the Chicago Tribune.

But he never made it out the door. Centibag sustained an injury -- the details of which have not been made public by the military, which cites an ongoing investigation -- that left him in a coma. Doctors at Providence Alaska Medical Center removed the Army soldier from life support on Feb. 11.  

Army officials have also declined to comment on whether foul play was involved in Cetinbag’s death.

Cetinbag was a native of Morton Grove, Ill. He joined the Army in January 2013 and arrived in Alaska in June 2013. He previously served with the U.S. Marine Corps, including a 2010 combat tour in Afghanistan.

Also, in January, Sgt. Jose Maria Pasillas died after a paratrooper training jump. The 34-year-old construction equipment repairer collapsed after the jump. On-site medics offered aid but Pasillas was transported to a local hospital, were he underwent surgery for a torn aorta. Officials said there was no evidence to suggest he had a hard landing or his equipment failed.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jerzyms.