OZIEWICZ email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-09-06 published
Parachute officer dies after jump over water
By Estanislao OZIEWICZ Saturday, September 6, 2003 - Page A6
The man who commanded parachutists at Canada Forces Base Trenton died yesterday morning after jumping from a helicopter over Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte.
Lieutenant-Colonel Michel BLANCHETTE, 49, was participating in his unit's annual water-landing refresher qualifications.
The Montreal native was a 20-year veteran who had experienced more than 2,000 parachute jumps. He is survived by his wife and two children.
A Forces public affairs spokesman confirmed that witnesses: said Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE separated from his parachute too early before hitting the water at Baker's Island. His parachute had opened.
Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was pronounced dead at Trenton Memorial Hospital.
Major Jean MORISSETTE said an investigation, with the results to be made public, is under way. The training exercise involving about 75 soldiers was called off.
Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was the first of six parachutists jumping from a helicopter at about 300 metres. Parachuting over water can be very tricky because a jumper, for example, may misjudge height coming down in clear, sunny weather over glassy water. Parachutists must separate from their parachutes upon hitting the water to avoid being tangled in their paraphenalia. "You have to separate from your parachute because if the canopy gets on your head, it could cause problems," Major MORISSETTE said. "You have to separate as soon as you touch the water. It appears he separated before, and we don't know the reason."
Governor-General Adrienne CLARKSON, commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces said in a statement that she was shocked and saddened by the fatal accident. She said Lt.-Col. BLANCHETTE was highly respected by soldiers and fellow officers.
Major MORISSETTE said such dangers are part of military life.
"It's a risky business. Even though we take all safety precautions at every turn, there is always inherent risk associated with military life," he said.
The mission of the parachute centre is to support "the generation and deployment of combat-ready forces through the conduct of parachute-related training and aerial delivery operations."
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