Local News

Marines Speak Out About Alleged Sabotage

Posted October 4, 2002 5:09 a.m. EDT

— Two Marines whose primary parachutes failed in midair are talking in public for the first time. Suspension lines on 13 chutes were cut and investigators say it could have been deliberate.

Cpl. Jose Ortega and Lt. Christopher Cole were just 1,200 feet off the ground when their parachutes fell apart.

"I exited the aircraft. Shortly after that, maybe two to three seconds after that, I realized there was no canopy," Ortega said.

"I looked up and saw that I had suspension lines and that was it -- no canopy," 1st Lt. Christopher Cole said.

Officials said the suspension lines for their primary gear had been cut. They deployed their reserve chutes, which worked fine.

"My first thought was you have a total malfunction and from the rest, it was like a blur, almost like muscle memory," Cole said.

Investigators have not said yet whether they are sure if the acts were intentional. There were 13 parachutes involved and each of them has 32 suspension lines for a total of 416 cuts.

Ortega said he does not want to say whether he thinks this was sabotage.

"It would be upsetting and there would be some tension, but again, I'm going to leave it to the authorities and let them figure out this investigation," Ortega said.

Ortega and Cole said they plan to jump again next month. A third Marine, whose chute was also cut, is also doing fine.

Camp Lejeune is boosting its security, making storage areas for the chutes harder to access.