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Soldier used new parachute model in fatal jump

Posted June 28, 2011

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— An 82nd Airborne paratrooper who died during a weekend training operation at Fort Bragg was using a new style of parachute, military officials said Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Jamal Clay, 25, of Elida, Ohio, fell 800 feet to his death late Saturday when his parachute malfunctioned and didn't open, officials said. The Army has declined to provide more details about the incident, which remains under investigation by the 82nd Airborne and the Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center.

Clay was using a a T-11 parachute, which Fort Bragg began using in 2009. The canopy of the parachute is square for a slower, more controlled descent than the round-canopy T-10 parachutes that the Army previously used.

Officials said Clay had used T-11 parachutes in two previous jumps. He had parachuted more than two dozen times during his seven years in the Army.

Lt. Col. Dave Connelly, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne, said it's premature to question the new parachute's safety based on one incident.

"Jumping out of an airplane is an inherently dangerous thing to do," Connelly said. "We go through extraordinary measures to mitigate and identify any risks associated with an airborne operation."

Parachuting deaths are rare at Fort Bragg.

The last occurred in 2006, when Capt. Nathaniel King hit his head after landing and died the next day.

Fort Bragg training jump, paratroopers Soldier used new parachute model in fatal jump

In 2001, Staff Sgt. Alexander Gessner, an 82nd Airborne jumpmaster, died after his reserve parachute deployed inside a C-130 plane and forced him out the door during a nighttime jump. An investigation found that he failed to maintain a proper position in the open door of the plane.

The last death at Fort Bragg blamed on a parachute malfunction was in 1999.

About 1,700 paratroopers were involved in Saturday night's training jump. The exercise was suspended after Clay's death, officials said, but jumps resumed Sunday.

Clay was a vehicle recovery supervisor with Company G, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2008, and officials described him as a role model for his battalion.

Clay is survived by his wife, Jasmine Clay, and two children, Jamier Brown, 6, and Janye McKenzie, 2.

The 82nd Airborne plans to hold a memorial service for him at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

16 Comments

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  • johnsod27330 Jul 8, 1:44 p.m.

    I have a female relative whose young husband was killed in Iraq. There were separated at the time. She was living with another and pregnant by another dude at the time, but just hadn’t completed the divorce. She did have one kid from the husband. She hit the lottery with his death! Last I heard, she had collected close to 3/4th of a millions dollars. Bought new cars, new house, new boat, etc. Schooling and other bills are being paid for. She’s living large.
    Click to view my profile "Lightfoot3"

    SGLI these days can be as much as $450,000. That is his life insurance. As far as other benefits she may have gotten from the military were his final pay and allowances, and a small death stipend.

  • Lightfoot3 Jun 29, 1:32 p.m.

    “I don't know where people get that his wife and kids will be taken care of for life.” – johnsod27330


    I have a female relative whose young husband was killed in Iraq. There were separated at the time. She was living with another and pregnant by another dude at the time, but just hadn’t completed the divorce. She did have one kid from the husband. She hit the lottery with his death! Last I heard, she had collected close to 3/4th of a millions dollars. Bought new cars, new house, new boat, etc. Schooling and other bills are being paid for. She’s living large.

  • johnsod27330 Jun 29, 9:49 a.m.

    Darth - "Not the best way for it to happen, but his wife and two kids will be taken care of the rest of their life. One of the few government hand outs that makes a lot of sense. I hope they are able to move forward and have great and productive lives."

    Such a tragic loss. My unit lost a Soldier in 2005 on a jump when he had a heart attack exiting the aircraft. It is hard for the family and the unit.

    I don't know where people get that his wife and kids will be taken care of for life. His family will get his SGLI (If he has it) and the family will probably qualify for Social Security but as far as I know that is it. The family will not get anymore benefits from the military.

  • jollyrogered Jun 29, 9:36 a.m.

    Pappy1- I dont think you appreciate how important a slower, and CONTROLLED descent can be. You have greater manuveurability within a combat zone, and less chance of breaking something when you hit the ground.

    Its not like Vietnam and WWII where we drop thousands of soldiers into the sky anymore. SO while they would potentially be exposed to enemy fire for longer, that is not longer a practical scenario. Airborne jumps in for covert missions, at night, in relatively safe zones, then humps to the op4

  • pappy1 Jun 28, 7:39 p.m.

    The T-10 main parachute has been used for years, very successfully. This new, contractor-hyped to be sure, parachute is an absolute waste of effort and money. Slower descent, while MAYBE lessening ankle sprains, keeps the trooper in the air longer and more exposed to enemy fire. Ah well, $$$$$$$$$ rule - as always.

  • NCSU_JIM Jun 28, 7:38 p.m.

    My prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends during this time of loss.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 28, 5:41 p.m.

    Darth - "Not the best way for it to happen, but his wife and two kids will be taken care of the rest of their life. One of the few government hand outs that makes a lot of sense. I hope they are able to move forward and have great and productive lives."

    I bet they'd rather have HIM.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 28, 5:40 p.m.

    Awww, how bizarre.

    Praying for those who loved him and those who served with him.

  • james27613 Jun 28, 5:29 p.m.

    perhaps it was not packed properly?

  • affirmativediversity Jun 28, 5:06 p.m.

    First and most important...my thoughts to his family during this time of loss.

    Next, I seriously doubt this was the first time this particular parachute was used...if it was then look to the rigger who inspected and assembled it...AND, if not then look to the rigger who packed it.

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