Air Force to pay $25 million after accidentally killing contractor in F-16 strafing run

An F-16 Viper assigned to the 311th Fighter Squadron, takes off from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, July 27, 2020

The U.S. government will pay $24.6 million to the widow of an Air Force contractor who was killed after an F-16 accidentally strafed his position with 20mm rounds, court records show.

Retired Master Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Holbrook, a former Tactical Air Control Party airman turned defense contractor, was killed during a nighttime live-fire training exercise at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on January 31, 2017.

Holbrook was killed “when an F-16 student pilot mistook the line of rental cars for the similarly aligned target and was ordered to fire at the group, blowing up one of the rental cars and striking Holbrook in the head with a 20mm round,” according to court documents. 

Holbrook died several hours later at the hospital after he was struck by the round, the court documents state.

The US government through the Air Force “was responsible for the acts and omissions … [of] those members responsible for training, supervising, directing and ensuring safety in the live-fire nighttime run,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephan Vidmar found, reads the court documents. 

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