On May 2017, Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) 1st Class Remington J. Peters plunged to his death during a parachute jump demonstration in New York City. It was New York Fleet Week, and Peters was a member of the Leap Frogs, the U.S. Navy’s (USN) elite parachute demonstration team. And now it has been revealed that the SEAL’s death was due to multiple malfunctions. According to documents obtained by Military.com via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Peters’ main parachute and reserve parachute lines became entangled during the jump.
On that fateful day, Peters and five more Navy jumpers were to demonstrate their unit’s capabilities above the Hudson River in NYC. Three of the men were designated as canopy performers, and three as wingsuit performers; Peters belonged to the latter group. The three members wearing the wingsuits were to perform manoeuvres before deploying their parachutes. They jumped from a Navy CH-53 helicopter at 8,500 feet. They were to conduct their manoeuvres for 6,000 feet, before releasing at 2,500 feet.
The document states that Peters followed the emergency procedures in case of a catastrophic malfunction by unzipping his wingsuit arms whilst free-falling. He fought to untangle the twisted line for about 40 seconds before deciding to cutaway and deploy his reserve chute. The investigation claims, however, that he did so belatedly: instead of conducting the cutaway at 1,600 feet, he did so at 1,300 feet (they were able to verify this information from the SEAL’s Cybernetic Parachute Release System (CYPRES), which has an automatic activation mode).
Then, Peters encountered a further issue when “the bridle, which attaches the pilot chute to the reserve canopy deployment bag, became entangled with the smoke bracket” that was attached to his leg. Smoke brackets function as a visual reference for the audience and the safety officers in the drop zone.
The report also claims that Peters deployed his reserve parachute too soon and that is why it became entangled. His fellow parachutists told investigators that his main parachute most probably failed because the container with the chute flipped through the lines during the packing process — it is striking how this would have escaped their attention during the multiple pre-jump safety tests, however. Leap Frogs members are responsible for packing their own chutes, and their parachutes are inspected and repacked every six months.
The report, however, concluded that in the end, it was the malfunction in Peters’ reserve parachute that proved fatal.
Peters had been with the Leap Frogs since 2016 and had participated in more than 100 demonstrations. His personal records reveal a very experienced parachutist with almost 1000 jumps. Moreover, he was experienced in the wingsuit apparatus, having done more than 150 such jumps. As a Navy SEAL, he had been deployed multiple times in Afghanistan and Iraq.