British parachutists describe near-miss

Parachutists in the British army’s Red Devils team describe how a mid-air collision caused one of their parachutes to collapse.

WHITEHAVEN, ENGLAND, UK (JUNE 19, 2015) (JONATHAN REID) – A British army paratrooper from the country’s famed Red Devils display team had a narrow escape in front of hundreds of spectators after he was caught mid-air by a fellow team member when his parachute failed to open properly.

The airshow in northwest England where the incident happened late on Friday (June 19) said it was the first parachute fail in 25 years for the team, which is formed of 12 members of Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment.

Spectators published dramatic photos and video on social media showing one soldier with a fully open parachute wrapping his legs around the ropes of his team mate’s tangled parachute below.

On Saturday (June 20), the parachutists involved told journalists that they were not panicked and used the incident as an opportunity to practice their training.

“As soon as I’d made contact with Wayne from the back, I looked up, seen the parachute was a little bit wrapped around. Pretty much straight away you realise that’s not exactly how we’d planned to do it. But then, training kicks in, we’re members of the parachute regiment of the British army, we always train for every eventuality. That’s when we look at implementing the plan that we always have at the back of our minds if something does happen like that,” said Corporal Mike French, whose parachute collapsed.

Corporal Wayne Shorthouse, who insists he is no hero, steered the two into a safe landing in a nearby marina.

“Basically what happened was we were conducting a canopy formation. It was a controlled collision. The canopy wrapped around myself and from that moment there we had to discuss all the way, keep in communication throughout the parachute display, what we were actually going to do to get ourselves out of that situation. With all the training we do during the winter season, it actually finally kicked in and we actually got to use it this time,” he said.

“It’s a very dangerous sport, it’s, display parachuting and especially canopy formations within display parachuting, it’s a very, very difficult and dangerous aspect of skydiving. So, constantly training is one of the things that kept us in constant communication. Wayne having a good parachute above his head, my parachute wasn’t too clever. So, talking to Wayne, your parachute’s fine, take it left, take it right, brought us down, nice splash,” said French.

The pair both said they have jumps scheduled for Sunday (June 21).

The Red Devils take part in more than 60 public displays a year.