Army parachutist falls to his death in Kruger

2012-06-12 00:00

TRAGEDY struck Operation Rhino in the Kruger National Park this past week when a reconnaissance soldier died in a freak accident during a parachute jump.

Rifleman Michael Sukazi (26) of 5 Reconnaissance Regiment in Phalaborwa died during an operational jump on an unknown target in Lower Sabie.

It is believed that the soldiers and members of a police task force were involved in a joint anti-poaching operation on Thursday morning.

They took off from Skukuza airport in an air force aircraft at about 9.30 am, and the parachutists jumped from a height of 12 000 feet.

The parachutists were to cut off poachers that had been hunted down.

Sukazi jumped first. His parachute opened, but some of his cords reportedly became entangled, which sent Sukazi and his parachute into a spin known as a Roman candle.

His emergency parachute did not deploy either and his colleagues had to watch as he struggled to open it.

He hit the ground about a kilometre from the marked landing spot near the Tshokwane picnic site and died on impact.

Defence Force spokesperson Colonel Petrus Motlhabane said an investigation would be held into the circumstances of his death.

The defence force and the police would conduct the investigation jointly.

The wind was apparently very strong. Two of Sukazi’s fellow parachutists sustained light injuries when they were blown off course.

One of them injured his leg when he landed on a stony koppie, while the other one struck a thorn tree.

The soldiers were all deployed at the Sand River base outside Kruger as part of Operation Rhino.

Provincial police spokesperson Sergeant Gerald Sedibe confirmed the incident. Informed sources said the soldiers jumped with a static line. That means their parachutes would have opened automatically the moment they left the aircraft.

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