Local News

Investigators: 13 Parachutes Tampered With During Training Exercise

Posted October 1, 2002 4:27 a.m. EDT

— While three Marines were directly affected when their main parachutes did not open during a training exercise, Camp Lejeune investigators say the suspension lines on 13 parachutes had been severed. Investigators are trying to determine whether the acts were intentional.

The Marines were jumping from a plane when they realized the potentially deadly problem -- someone apparently sabotaged the training parachutes.

"Three of the five Marines that were jumping experienced a total malfunction of their parachute and they had to pull their reserve parachutes," said 1st Lt. Marisol Cantu, of Camp Lejeune Public Affairs.

The Marines have not stopped the training exercises, but officials have ordered those in charge to check the gear and their procedures before taking to the air again.

Typically, Marines practice strict security with the parachutes and keep a paper trail of who has been near them.

After every exercise, two Marines check out the gear together -- one rigger and one inspector. Sgt. Carlos Snead, a rigger who has jumped about 400 times, said he takes pride in protecting the Marines.

"A lot of people who do jump have a lot of trust in you, a lot of faith in your ability to pack their parachutes correctly, and so when they do jump, they open, and they have good lift," Snead said.

"It's a Marine life you're talking about, that's jumping, so it's very important and I know that those people take their job very seriously," Cantu said.

In the recent exercise, the parachutes never opened because of the severed lines. Investigators say the main canopies never even left the aircraft.

Camp Lejuene's Public Affairs Office said years of training paid off for those who took part in the exercise. The Marines with the bad parachutes were able to pull their emergency cords in time and walk away after landing.

Navy investigators on base are looking into the incident. They have not said when they will release more information.