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'No need for radios to make SAS parachute course safer' 'Our training is the best in the world' - trainer.

Byline: Simon Evans

PARACHUTE tuition for British Special Forces is the best in the world and not in need of improvement, the inquest of a Welsh SAS captain who died on his first day of training heard yesterday.

Captain Daniel Wright, 25, of the Queen's Gurkha Signal Corps, died at Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire after plummeting 2,500ft on November 17, 2005.

It was suggested to Flight Sergeant James Doig, who trains parachutists, that additional safety measures were needed, in particular two-way radios for trainees and beeping altimeters to warn whether to deploy reserve chutes.

Flt Sgt Doig told Capt Wright's inquest in Oxford, "We feel, at the moment, these measures are not necessary. Our training is the best in the world. We have a good record. We have few injuries."

Capt Wright, of Newport, was the second of three trainees to jump. His main chute did not open and he did not open the reserve until it was too late. On Tuesday, the inquest heard that if Capt Wright had been equipped with a radio he probably would have survived because colleagues could have talked him through what he needed to do.

The coroner, Andrew Walker, asked witness A, not named for operational reasons, "Is it more likely than not, on the balance of probabilities, that a radio would have saved his life?"

Witness A replied, "I can't disagree with that."

But Flt Sgt Doig said yesterday radios could cause further confusion to students doing their first set of jumps. He said he used a loudhailer to call up from the drop zone to students who got into difficulties. It was probably audible at around 500ft, he said.

"Radio would only be useful to give very minor instructions because once the canopy is open not a lot can go wrong," he said.

"The instruction is: any concerns, release the reserve chute."

Mr Walker suggested trainee parachutists should be supplied with altimeters which warn whether to release the reserve chute when necessary. He also said automatically deployable chutes should be used by trainees on their first few jumps.

The coroner said, "What we are trying to do is make what is already safe safer."

Flt Sgt Doig said, "I'm in favour of anything that makes it safer - but not more complicated. I think it could confuse a student if he was receiving noises in his ear."

Earlier yesterday the coroner ordered the MoD's barrister, Oliver Sanders, to get Capt Wright's altimeter, which indicates altitude, tested to see if it works or not.

Flight Sergeant Paul Usherwood, an RAF parachute trainer, analysed pictures of Capt Wright's ill-fated jump, which took around 30 seconds.

He said his chute suffered a "streaming malfunction", where air fails to get sufficient purchase from the downward motion to fully inflate the chute. The inquest was adjourned until today.

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KILLED Captain Daniel Wright who was killed during SAS training on his first day of parachute training
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 13, 2008
Words:490
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