Coroner: Radio would have saved SAS captain

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Coroner: Radio would have saved SAS captain

Post by Guest on Sat 15 Mar 2008, 9:11 am

An SAS captain would not have died if he had been equipped with a radio costing as little as 50 when his parachute failed to open during a training jump, a coroner ruled yesterday.

Daniel Wright: calm

Recording a narrative verdict, Andrew Walker, the assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, said he was satisfied that Capt Daniel Wright would have deployed his reserve chute earlier had he been able to communicate with those observing his jump from the ground.

Mr Walker said: "This tragedy happened for the want of a simple, inexpensive piece of equipment."

The coroner was told during a week-long inquest in Oxford that Capt Wright deployed his reserve chute 1.5 seconds too late after trying to rectify problems with his main chute. The Queen's Gurkha Signal Corps soldier, 25, died instantly after plummeting 2,500 ft at Weston-on-the-Green airfield near RAF Brize Norton on Nov 17, 2005.

Mr Walker added: "Captain Wright misidentified the malfunction as one he should take action to remedy and, as a consequence, when he deployed his reserve parachute it did not have sufficient time to open. Captain Wright, on the balance of probability, would not have died had an operator on the ground been able to communicate with him using a radio.

"At the time Captain Wright took the parachute course, requests for these radios had been refused as funding was only available for essential items."

The inquest heard on Thursday that the need for soldiers to be issued with radios during parachute training was urged by a squadron leader nine months before the death of Capt Wright, who was from Newport in south Wales.

An email from Sqd Ldr M J Ellis, who was in charge of military training at RAF Brize Norton, said that radios, believed to cost around 50, were "long overdue".

Another memo from a senior instructor stated that they should be issued to students "before we have a 'major' on our hands".

The emails, extracts of which were read to Oxford Coroner's Court, were sent in February and March 2005.The hearing had earlier been told that the use of a radio would have saved Capt Wright's life by allowing instructors to tell him to cut away his parachute when he got into trouble.

On video footage of the jump, instructors can be heard urging Capt Wright to do this and deploy his reserve.

In comments made to the inquest immediately before he recorded his verdict, Mr Walker said he was sure that Capt Wright did not panic during the jump. "I have no doubt that Captain Wright was calmly trying to resolve the difficulty with his parachute.

"Those who watched the last moments of Captain Wright can have no doubt about the need for ground-to-air communications."

Speaking outside the court, Capt Wright's mother Carol urged the MoD to accept that "penny-pinching" had cost her son his life. "For the sake of a flipping radio they have lost a potential star," she said.

Flanked by her husband, Irwin and Daniel's older sister Abigail, Mrs Wright stressed that it had never been her intention to "mount a vendetta" against the MoD over her son's death.

Radios are now provided during military parachute training, bringing the Armed Forces into line with standard practice for civilian trainees. However, according to the MoD, they cost 1,000.

Provided By: Telegraph -


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