Cumbria

Red Devils in Whitehaven Airshow mid-air parachute drama

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Media captionFootage of the men coming down to land in the harbour was captured by Rebecca Kiggins

A Red Devil parachutist had a lucky escape when his chute failed to open during an airshow - but a team-mate caught him in mid-air.

The Army freefall parachute display team was performing at the Whitehaven Air Show in Cumbria on Friday night when the parachute failed.

Pictures on social media show the men coming down together and crashing into the harbour waters.

A message on the show's Facebook page said both were all right.

It said: "We can confirm that the Red Devil parachutists are both safe and sound. For the first time in 25 years they had a parachute fail.

"One team member caught his team-mate and brought him into Queens Dock. Our safety procedures worked perfectly and a huge thank you to Whitehaven Marina for getting them out of the water so quickly."

Image copyright Stephen Miller
Image caption An Army spokesman said it was investigating the incident

Lucy Milne, who was watching the display, said: "It seemed to go on for ages and it's just seeing the panic of everyone around you and seeing it on the parachute guys as well - the panic.

"And then all of a sudden he just started to go really quick and everyone was holding their breath and then all of a sudden they were in the water.

"Everyone was staring at the water for ages waiting for them both to pop up and then when eventually they did everyone clapped."

Chief executive of the Whitehaven Festival Gerard Richardson said: "It has to be pointed out that the skill and cool thinking of both team members to then manage to steer to safety was incredible.

"It's a testament to the training and the skill of the British Forces and we are just happy that last night's drama had a happy ending.

"Within 10 minutes of landing the lads were tucking into pie and peas and a pint and there was an audible sigh of relief in the crowd when we were able to announce they were both safe."

Image copyright Liam Benson
Image caption Spectators at the airshow watched the incident unfold

Gavin O'Reilly from Whitehaven went to watch the display with his wife.

He said: "At first I didn't realise what was happening. I thought it was all part of the display.

"But then I noticed one of the parachutists frantically kicking their legs as they were approaching the water.

"I was up on some headland, an area called Kell, where you can get a good view of the harbour."

An Army spokesman said: "We can confirm that there was an incident during the Whitehaven Air Show, when a member of the Red Devils display team's parachute failed to open correctly.

"A team-mate assisted in his safe landing, both men were unharmed, and we are now investigating to find out the cause of the incident."

Image copyright Rebecca Kiggins
Image caption The men landed in the harbour water

Volunteer Dianne Richardson said: "To be honest, everybody thought they had been tangled up, but it was only afterwards that they found out that one of the guys managed to manoeuvre to safety.

"There are a lot of masts in the harbour. The professionalism and skills just shows why they are the best in the world."

The Red Devils formed in 1963 and carries out more than 60 displays every year.

It currently comprises 12 serving soldiers from the three battalions of the Parachute Regiment, all of whom have to have at least three years' experience.

Spectator Liam Benson said it was "frightening" to watch: "The parachutists came out and you could clearly see quite early on that the parachute hadn't opened fully and his team-mate kind of scrambling to interlock himself into the parachute to save him from falling... everybody was very very shocked at what was happening."


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