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SERE airman died after over controlling his parachute during military freefall training, investigation says

A survival, evasion, resistance and escape airman died in September as a result of over-controlling his parachute during a military freefall training parachute jump, according to a new report.

The mishap occurred on September 10, after Staff Sgt. Adam Erickson with the 412th Operations Support Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base jumped out of a civilian De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter Aircraft at Skydive Perris in California. Erickson, 29, was equipped with a highly-maneuverable Advanced Parachute System with a Performance Design Sabre2-170 canopy for the jump.

The master parachutist, who had 346 total jumps under his belt already, successfully deployed his parachute during his second jump of the day at roughly 3,350 feet, but ran into problems after making a full brake input for roughly 10 seconds at approximately 274 feet, the Accident Investigation Board report said.

That prompted the canopy to stall and start to left spin for several rotations before Erickson hit the ground and sustained blunt force injuries, the report said.

Brig. Gen. Paul Knapp, the Accident Investigation Board President, wrote in the report that the mishap was due to Erickson “over controlling his parachute system, which inducted a stall and collapsed his canopy at an altitude too low to recover.”

Furthermore, Knapp said evidence pointed to an improper assessment of the risks with the situation. The report noted that Erickson was at a higher altitude than planned upon nearing the drop zone, and did not overshoot his desired impact point to compensate.

Likewise, Knapp chastized the squadron supervision for not taking into account risks stemming from high wing loading while moving to a smaller parachute. The report said Erickson’s free fall jump was conducted with a 1:4:1 wingload — meaning his parachute was more responsive to operator inputs.

“Supervision’s inadequate risk assessment enabled an environment of excessive autonomy where operations involving elevated risks, such as high wing loading, did not receive an appropriate level of scrutiny,” Knapp wrote.

The Air Force Personnel Center previously told Air Force Times that Erickson first joined the Air Force in 2011 and was serving as the non-commissioned officer in charge for SERE operations and training. The Air Force Materiel Command released the investigation on April 3.

Erickson served in Qatar in 2016 as part of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center and in 2019 in Romania as the Jumpmaster and Operations liaison, according to the Edwards Air Force Base website.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Adam touched many lives during his time here and our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends and coworkers,” said Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander, 412th Test Wing.

Erickson received the Air Force Commendation medal and twice received the Air Force Achievement medal.

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