This is a distributed Fatality Bulletin of a recent static line jumpmaster fatally wounded.
A USASOC Soldier was fatally injured during the conduct of a daylight C-130 parachute operation when he landed, struck his head on a paved surface, and was dragged by his T10-D parachute. The Soldier was performing Jumpmaster duties when the accident occurred.
The Accident Investigation Board identified leadership, individual, and material failures that contributed to the cause of the accident. The leadership failed to ensure personnel assigned to critical positions (JMs/DZSO) were current, the proper support was available, or if the operation's risk assessment was completed and signed. The Board also determined that the fatally injured Soldier was neither a current jumper nor a current Jumpmaster and that the assigned a DZSO was not current.
The fatality involved a Senior Warrant Officer (180A) with over 30 years of service. Although he was known as an experienced jumper and Jumpmaster he had a reputation of doing things "his own way." The unit conducted BAR the morning of the jump, but the fatally injured Soldier did not attend. During mock door training the fatally injured Soldier was corrected by an NCO on his parachutist exit control procedures. The Soldier replied that he had his own method of controlling jumpers' exits. No other effort was made to correct the Soldier's actions.
The unit utilized a surveyed Drop Zone (DZ) (an active airfield) of sufficient length (over 2100 meters) to require a second DZSO. However, the unit determined that it only required 7 seconds of the DZ length due to the small number of jumpers and elected to use 1 DZSO in violation of FM 3-21.220, Static Line Parachute Techniques and Training. Because of the incorrect setup of the DZ, the Malfunctions Officer was not properly positioned to view the entire operation and was unable to see the fatally injured Soldier's landing. The USAF calculated the CARP release point based on the DZ surveyed length.
The first pass did not drop due to high winds. After a 10 minute hold the first pass executed their drop. The Accident Investigation Board determined that automatic wind data recorded by the airfield depicted winds at 8-19 knots during this period.
The fatally injured Soldier's failure to follow prescribed exit procedures resulted in his stick using the entire length of the DZ, vise the 7 seconds as stated in the MACO briefing. His position as Jumpmaster placed him far down the DZ and it is suspected he experienced high ground winds as he attempted to maneuver his parachute to the DZ.
It was determined that the fatally injured Soldier executed a down-wind front PLF, striking his head on the paved taxiway. He was then dragged across the pavement ending up on the grass shoulder. During his PLF, the Soldier's helmet chin strap buckle fractured and separated, allowing the helmet to be knocked off his head, which contributed to the severity of his head injuries. The helmet has been sent to Natick Laboratory for further analysis.
ACCIDENT BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS:
The Accident Investigation Board recommended that USASOC review their airborne procedures and ensure that only qualified personnel participate in or supervise airborne operations.
Leaders must review the Risk Assessment Worksheet (RAW) prior to high-risk events, update them as necessary, and ensure that the RAW is signed by the proper authority.
Commanders must place emphasis on Soldier compliance with all qualifications, currency, and training requirements outlined in USASOC Regulation 350-2 and associated Army regulations.
Safety is always the most important consideration when conducting high risk training. Commanders at all levels should analyze the complete training event to determine the degree of risk to Soldiers, that the training is conducted in a safe and logical manner, and that the training standards are understood and enforced.