Red Devils Sergeant Major’s Fatal Accident During Parachute Training

Fatal Collision in Mid-Air

The tragic demise of Dean Walton, the sergeant major of the British Army’s Red Devils parachute display team, occurred during a training jump in Seville, Spain, after an entanglement with another parachuter, Nirmal Purja.

The fatal collision took place on October 14 last year, resulting in Walton’s death at the aerodrome.

Unplanned Mid-Air Maneuver

According to evidence presented in Winchester Coroner’s Court, GoPro footage captured Walton descending upon Purja mid-air, leading to an entanglement.

Purja, a Nepalese mountaineer and Special Boat Service veteran, reacted by ‘cutting away’ and activating his reserve parachute, a move he described as unplanned and potentially life-threatening for both.

Inquest Findings

Coroner Jason Pegg recorded a conclusion of death by misadventure. The planned jump was intended as a ‘freefall basic jump, freefall drills,’ followed by a controlled deployment of parachutes. However, the unplanned attempt at a ‘canopy stacking drill’ during the jump resulted in the tragic accident.

Testimony and Sequence of Events

Testimony from Purja detailed the events, expressing that Walton’s actions endangered both their lives. He clarified that Walton’s intent to step on top of his parachute wasn’t part of the planned maneuver. The court played GoPro footage showcasing Walton’s controlled approach and subsequent collapse of the parachutes.

Unintended Consequences

Pegg emphasized that Walton’s attempt to step onto Purja’s canopy unintentionally led to the collapse of both parachutes, resulting in Walton’s fatal fall from approximately 3,000 feet.

Response and Actions

Statements from witnesses and Purja himself suggested that Purja’s response, cutting away his parachute, was appropriate given the circumstances. Purja was found on his knees in distress at the scene.

Inquest Evaluation

The inquest also highlighted the customary practice in parachuting, wherein the lowest person in a tangled situation cuts away first. The footage substantiated Purja’s action and the unintended consequence of Walton’s parachute collapsing due to his approach and step onto Purja’s canopy.

Conclusion and Implications

The court concluded that Walton’s attempt to step onto Purja’s canopy was not part of the planned maneuver, leading to the unforeseen collapse and fatal fall.

The incident, although unintended, resulted in tragic consequences for Walton during what was supposed to be routine training in Spain.

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