Family Wants Answers in Death of Connecticut Airman

The grieving family of fallen Waterford airman Staff Sgt. James Tyler Grotjan is questioning the circumstances surrounding his death last week after injuries sustained overseas.

Grotjan’s parents and wife were at his side on July 12 when he was taken off life support at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on July 12. He was 26 years old.

His mother, Laura Prentice of Waterford, told NBC Connecticut’s Shyang Puri, “I felt like a part of me died that day.”

Four days earlier, on July 8, Grotjan was injured in a non-combat related incident at Al-Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, according to a release from the Department of Defense.

Grotjan fulfilled his lifelong dream of joining the military when he enlisted with the Air Force’s 4th Civil Engineers Squadron. He was overseas supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint military effort targeting ISIS in the Middle East, and deployed just two months before his death.

Taylor Grotjan, his wife, believed his work as a plumber would keep him out of harm’s way. “When he signed up we picked a safe job, a job that didn’t require a ton of risk, because I was scared,” she said.

Instead, his mother said Grotjan was exposed to a methane gas leak, suffered cardiac arrest, and fell while in a manhole. The details, she said, leave her with questions about how it all happened.

“I need to know if proper protocol was followed,” she said.

On Wednesday, a sign built by his family since his death stood tall on the lawn of the Waterford home he bought for his mother.

The family, including seven siblings, remembered Tyler, as they call him, as a mischievous child who grew into a kind and generous man. Randy Grotjan, a retired Navy officer, proudly described his son.

“He would literally give you the shirt off his back and not even think twice, and not ask for it back. He was genuinely a great man.”

A spokesperson for the Fourth Fighter Wing Public Affairs office confirmed to NBC Connecticut that Grotjan’s death remains under investigation. NBC Connecticut reached out to the Air Force and is waiting for answers regarding the circumstances surrounding his death.

His mother waits as well.

“No mother should ever have to experience the loss of their child, and I don’t think I will ever be ok until I have answers into what happened to my child,” she said.

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