Former Jefferson Forest High School track and field coach Jerome Loy remembered Josh Drablos as a young man who always went to great heights.
As a star athlete at the Bedford County school, Drablos set a VHSL Group AA state record in the pole vault in 2010, winning the championship at 15 feet, 2 inches.
As a college student, Drablos sought and achieved a leadership role at the United States Naval Academy.
Friday, Drablos was one of 11 people killed when a skydiving plane in Hawaii crashed shortly after takeoff on Oahu’s North Shore at a small airfield used by skydivers and the U.S. Army. Hawaii officials released his name Monday.
A statement released by the Navy said Lt. Drablos, 27, was “an invaluable member” of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, which is based in Kunia, Hawaii.
Loy was not surprised the former Jefferson Forest athlete was involved in an activity that required some level of daring.
“He was fearless and an adventurer,” Loy said Tuesday.
Loy, who is vacationing in Michigan, said he learned of Drablos’ death on Saturday.
“My son called me on and told me,” Loy said. “Then I looked on Facebook just to see if I could get some more details.
“It’s very, very sad.”
Hawaii officials also released the names of six other victims Monday. They included a Colorado couple in their 20s celebrating their first wedding anniversary, three Hawaii residents and a man from Minnesota. The plane was operated by Oahu Parachute Center.
Loy said his contact with Drablos was infrequent after Drablos’ gradation from Annapolis in 2015.
“I didn’t see much of Josh after he went into the service,” Loy said. “I saw his mom all the time because we officiate track meets together and she was always giving me updates on what’s going on in their lives.
“He has a brother also in the Navy. The family was all about the service.”
Drablos competed in the pole vault for Navy, clearing a career best height of 15 feet, 9 inches during a 2014 meet at Princeton University.
Drablos also was a member of the cross country team at Jefferson Forest, but his specialty was the pole vault.
He tied for second place in the 2009 Group AA outdoor championships. He placed second in the 2010 indoor state meet with a height of 14 feet.
In Drablos’ final high school meet, he cleared 15 feet, 2 inches to eclipse the old Group AA mark by one-half inch.
Pole vaulting takes a special discipline — the willingness to hang upside down in the air for a split second with nothing but the sky in sight.
“You’ve got to be fearless,” Loy said. “And he was.”