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British Paratrooper Fatally Injured in Parachute Accident Abroad

The risks faced by Armed Forces when undertaking training exercises was highlighted again recently when a British paratrooper was seriously injured in a parachuting accident.

During a joint exercise with American troops in North Carolina, USA, the unnamed British soldier bumped into a colleague after jumping from the plane and, according to military sources, landed ‘very badly’.

British and US troops were staging a mock raid on an airfield in the largest allied airborne landing exercise in almost 20 years. Around 50 soldiers were injured during the same exercise, 10 of whom were serving British paratroopers.

It seems the military accident risk associated with parachute training exercises is accepted by senior armed forces personnel with a British Army spokesperson saying, “Personnel exiting an aircraft in flight carrying full combat equipment always involves an element of risk”.

In 2011, a British Army Cadet died in a fatal parachuting accident after he collided with another cadet during a training exercise in California. Although a sudden change in wind direction was given as the reason for the collision the surviving cadet, who was left with incomplete paraplegia, has claimed that the Ministry of Defence failed to brief the cadets properly and ensure that they knew the direction in which they should land.

Failure on behalf of the MoD to provide sufficient equipment has also been blamed in the past for fatal parachute injuries. In 2005, SAS Captain Daniel Wright died when his parachute failed to open. During the inquest into his death, the Coroner found that if Captain Wright had been supplied with a radio he could have made contact with colleagues on the ground who would have advised him to cut away his failed parachute and deploy his reserve in time. Captain Wright’s mother accused the MoD of providing less safety equipment to the SAS than that received by civilian parachute trainees.

There will always be an inherent risk in parachuting but the Ministry of Defence needs to ensure that all Armed Forces personnel on parachute exercises are properly trained and equipped.

Even in training exercises in the USA where the US chain of command is effectively in charge, the MoD still maintains a duty of care to personnel serving in exercises overseas in these conditions. It has a duty to ensure that the risks to personnel are reduced as far as possible when balancing the risk of injury against the need to conduct realistic training.

The MoD cannot absolve itself of responsibility by placing the blame on the host forces. It must ensure co-operation in risk assessing the activity with the host nation.

In some cases, jurisdiction may become an issue and in those cases we are able to work with our team of experts specialising in foreign jurisdiction claims to ensure the best outcome for our clients.

Zoe Sutton is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK specialising in military accident claims.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have specialist teams who can work together to help you if you have been injured in a military accident abroad. Our expert Accident Abroad Solicitors can work together with our Military Accident team to advise you on whether a personal injury claim is likely to succeed.

Call us for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 24/7 or from abroad on +44 20 7657 155. Alternatively contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have more than 1,450 staff and 18 offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Derby, Cambridge and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.

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