Paratrooper plummeted to ground after becoming entangled with another solider in parachute jump, court hears
An ex-soldier plummeted to the ground after becoming entangled with a colleague in a parachute jump, he told the High Court today.
The former paratrooper alleged the accident was caused by a flawed timing of their dispatch from the sky.
He also suggested his chute failed to fully inflate in the jump from a military plane more than 20 years ago - a claim strenuously denied.
The 49-year-old, who is not being named for security reasons, is suing the Ministry of Defence for alleged negligence.
His case centres on physical and psychological injuries he claims to have sustained in the incident in July 1994.
Based in Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down at the time, he was part of a unit flown over to England for training at Aldershot.
The ex-private in the Parachute Regiment had already completed up to 26 jumps by that stage.
He was the last member of his unit to exit the Hercules aircraft at a height of 800ft over the drop zone at Hankley Common.
Giving evidence to the court in Belfast, he claimed that within seconds of leaping out, his face was covered by the canopy from another soldier's chute.
Amid fears his own equipment had malfunctioned, he told Madam Justice McBride they became entangled.
"The next thing I remember is the ground coming up really fast, and thinking to myself this is going to really hurt," he said.
"I must have gone unconscious for however many seconds, I remember coming round in the most excruciating pain, and I remember screaming."
It was claimed that a doctor trying to administer first aid became involved in an altercation with a flight lieutenant who had watched the jump and was seeking to recover the chute.
According to the plaintiff he thought at the time that his equipment had failed.
"We call it a Roman Candle when when the parachute doesn't inflate," he explained.
Questioned by his barrister, James McNulty QC, the former soldier said he believed he had come into contact with the solider who jumped before him.
"He would have been either dispatched too late, or I was dispatched too early, causing the collision."
Although he returned to his unit three months later, he was medically discharged in 1995.
At times grimacing as he testified, the hearing was temporarily adjourned to allow him a break from the witness box.
Liability in the action is denied by the MoD.
Gerald Simpson QC, for the defendant, put it to the ex-paratrooper that his chute had fully inflated before he landed.
Mr Simpson also contended soldiers were properly trained to deal with entanglements.
"You were physically entangled with another man in a hanger and you were taught how to get out of an entanglement," he said.
But as the plaintiff's recollection of events came under challenge, he insisted: "I can remember plummeting... seeing the ground coming up, thinking this is going to hurt and then, bang."
The case continues.
Belfast Telegraph Digital