Somerset

Army parachute collision death an accident

Beachley Barracks in Gloucestershire Image copyright Google
Image caption L/Cpl Ali Woodford was based at Beachley Barracks in Gloucestershire

The death of a soldier who collided with a colleague during a parachute exercise at a training centre has been ruled as an accident.

L/Cpl Ali Woodford, 26, died in 2015 in Germany after his reserve parachute failed to deploy fully in time.

The inquest heard L/Cpl Woodford and the unnamed private had been put on a "collision course" by instructors after the wind changed direction.

The coroner said the accident was "potentially avoidable".

L/Cpl Woodford, from North Petherton, Somerset, and the unnamed soldier were members of Chepstow-based 1st Battalion The Rifles.

They were learning to parachute at the training centre run by the Rhine Army Parachute Association in Sennelager.

The hearing, in Taunton, was told they were doing a 3,500ft (1,066m) static line jump and had been briefed by the senior instructor to land near a golf course.

'Catalogue of shortcomings'

It also heard that during the exercise the wind changed and the chief instructor told them to head towards the control tower instead - putting them on a collision course.

At 780ft (237m) they collided and became entangled and, despite deploying reserve parachutes, L/Cpl Woodford's reserve failed to deploy fully before he hit the ground.

The chief instructor had not given "any other" instructions after they collided and the training centre did not provide instructions on mid-air entanglements, the inquest heard.

Recording an accidental conclusion, Somerset Coroner Tony Williams said there had been a "whole catalogue of safety shortcomings and poor governance".

"This tragedy has enabled a review of Rhine Army Parachute Association which has identified that the training, supervision and control of the activity fell short of the standards that the military could reasonably expect of such a centre," he said.

"In my opinion, this was due to complacency, the complexity of structures and inadequate training, supervision and control of parachute operations."

L/Cpl Woodford joined the Army in 2011 and had served in Afghanistan. He was married to Samantha, a support worker.

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