Army’s investigation into death of paratrooper complete, jumpmaster at fault

Sgt. Shaina Schmigel (U.S. Army)

The investigation into Sgt. Shaina Schmigel’s May 30, 2014 death has been completed. According to the Army’s response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the Army’s investigation determined that a jumpmaster failed to properly inspect Schmigel’s static lines before her nighttime static line jump. The training was conducted by the 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

According to the Army’s investigation, Schmigel’s equipment was misrouted, causing Schmigel to become entangled in the jumper’s parachute who jumped after her. This misrouting of her equipment was determined to be the primary cause of Schmigel’s death, with the jumpmaster’s failure to properly inspect Schmigel’s equipment called the “single most definitive failure.” Schmigel died due to fatal lacerations on her throat and a broken neck. The report states that the entire incident only lasted 3 to 4 seconds. No one knew Schmigel had been injured until she landed and was found unresponsive.

In addition to the misrouting of her equipment, other deficiencies were identified to have contributed to the paratrooper’s death. It was reported that one jumpmaster stood watch instead of helping ensure that the inspection was thorough. In addition, two jumpmasters who were supposed to serve as safety inspectors were absent from the pre-flight jumpmaster brief held two days prior to the training. All four instructors that were present at the training had no experience conducting safety duty. Recommendations were made in the report to eliminate these mistakes in future trainings.

The report also recommended that one of the jumpmasters who did not properly inspect Schmigel’s equipment be decertified. The report said that he had gone too long between Jumpmaster School Graduation and completing certification without a refresher, which is a violation of protocol. This is the same jumpmaster who was accused of not properly inspecting Schmigel’s equipment.

Sgt. Schmigel of Medina, New York, joined the Army in August 2010, according to ABC News 11.  She was deployed to Iraq for a few months in 2011, and earned several awards, including the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. She also earned the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster.  Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Lt. Col. Albert Paquin, said at the time of her death that she was “extraordinary” and a “much-respected member of our team.”

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