Star-News: Serious Smokejumper Accident in McCall Triggers Forest Service Procedure Change


A July parachute accident, which critically injured a McCall smokejumper, has triggered a change in procedure from the United States Forest Service.

Eric Dunning, 44, was conducting a typical training jump on July 28 when his parachute failed. He struck a tree and fell about 40 feet to the ground at Bear Basin, just north of McCall. He suffered a fractured pelvis, broken arm and rib, and fractured his vertebrae.

This week's McCall Star-News reports that the incident was the first chute accident since 2010, but was the seventh and most serious incident involving an FS-14 parachute in 2014. A follow-up investigation into Dunning's accident revealed his chute had been used 46 times.

The Star-News reports that the Forest Service has instituted 10 changes to its procedures and training at the McCall smokejumpers base, as well as six other Forest Service smokejumper bases in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Among the changes:
  • Jumpers must again review all FS-14 packing instructions and have a new mid-season review done by supervisors.
  • Any discrepancies in packing will be forwarded to the region's development center, which is responsible for equipment safety.
  • All parachutes coming back from jumps will be inspected and measured.
  • If a parachute is not used for 120 days after it is packed, it will be re-inspected.
"The U.S. Forest Service has been aware of the potential for broken steering lines since the FS-14 parachute was implemented in 1996," National Interagency Fire Center Public Affairs Specialist Jennifer Jones told the Star-News. "We have on average four broken control lines on average a year."