Mother says £50 radio could have prevented SAS parachute death

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The Independent Online

The mother of an SAS officer who died when his parachute failed to open during a training jump has accused the Ministry of Defence of "penny pinching" after hearing that a £50 radio could have saved her son's life.

Captain Daniel Wright fell 2,500ft as he tried to open his main parachute, finally releasing his reserve 1.5 seconds too late. The 25-year-old would not have died had he had a radio allowing instructors on the ground to give advice, an inquest heard.

Speaking outside the court, his mother, Carol, said yesterday: "We ask the MoD to accept their penny-pinching in not providing the same level of safety equipment as is provided for civilian parachute students has resulted in a far greater use of public funds – for example, the cost of this court case this week.

"It's such a terrible waste – he was a talented young man who was likely to have had a glittering military career."

Cpt Wright, of Newport, south Wales, belonged to the Queen's Gurkha Signal Corps. After a week-long hearing into his death, on 17 November 2005 at Weston-on-the-Green airfield, near RAF Brize Norton, the assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, Andrew Walker, recorded a narrative verdict.

He said: "Let there be no doubt – this tragedy happened for the want of a simple, inexpensive piece of equipment. Cpt Wright, on the balance of probability, would not have died had an operator on the ground at the drop zone been able to communicate with him using a radio. At the time Cpt Wright took the parachute course, requests for these radios had been refused as funding was only available for essential items."

Nine months before his death, a squadron leader in charge of military training at RAF Brize Norton had requested that parachute trainees be issued with radios, believed to cost £50 each, saying they were "long overdue", the inquest heard.

The MoD said that from 1 April, all troops undergoing parachute training will have radios.