RAF instructor 'plummeted to death' after parachute entanglement

Sergeant Rachel Fisk
Sergeant Rachel Fisk

A PARACHUTE became entangled moments before a woman RAF instructor plummeted to her death during a training exercise at an RAF base in Oxfordshire, a coroner has heard.

Sergeant Rachel Fisk, 32, was a parachute instructor but was killed in an incident on September 2, 2021, at RAF Weston-on-the-Green after her reserve pilot chute became entangled.

The plunge to her death at a nearby farm was captured on the camera she was wearing.

A jury inquest at Oxford Coroner’s Court on Monday (May 20) heard that the sprung pilot chute connected to the release of the reserve parachute was tangled with the white reserve bridle.

A pilot chute deploys a small auxiliary parachute used to engage the main or reserve parachute.

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A statement from a company providing an expert statement on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was read at the inquest, said: "Footage from the GoPro video footage can be seen where the sprung pilot chute tangled with the white reserve bridle. There is insufficient evidence to be certain as to what caused this entanglement."

It was heard that Ms Fisk's main parachute had not been deployed and that the most likely reason was that Ms Fisk was unable to locate the release. However, it was noted that this would have been ‘uncommon’ due to Ms Fisk's experience in sky-diving.

A reserve parachute was activated by Ms Fisk. However, the deployment was interrupted by the sprung pilot chute becoming entangled.

The coroner heard that Sgt. Fisk had completed more than 500 jumps as a parachutist and skydiver before the tragic event on her fourth and final jump of the day on September 2, 2021.

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Sgt. Fisk's body was found in a field at Simms Farm, Chesterton. An Automatic Activation Device (AAD) was present on the inside surface of the parachute pack.

The inquest heard that the AAD was programmed to activate the release of the reserve pilot parachute when a skydiver had reached a certain speed at a certain altitude. However, the process had already been started manually by Sgt. Fisk so the AAD did not play a role in the incident.

The jury heard that there was evidence from a GoPro camera appearing to show Ms Fisk's descent. She died instantly upon impacting the ground.

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Ms Fisk, who lived in Carterton, had been conducting a training course at RAF Weston-on-the-Green with other squadron leaders and eight students.

The RAF instructor chose not to re-pack her parachute before her final flight of the day - opting to use her spare parachute instead. The report said that there was nothing wrong with the standard of packing.

The inquest continues.