Correction: The video I posted earlier today presented as a single event what in reality were two separate mishaps. Rather than having occurred in sequence with the first video, the second was instead an earlier example of the same malfunction occurring. I apologize for the error. This video accurately presents the unfortunate fatal parachuting accident of Navy SEAL Bradley Cavner.

On June 23, 2014 Chief Special Warfare Operator Bradley S. Cavner, 31, of Coronado, California, died from injuries sustained during an accident while conducting parachute jump training operations in El Centro, California. Until now there has been almost no information publicly available about the accident. It’s time we change that.

The Navy’s accident investigation report found that Cavner’s death was caused by a gust of wind which prematurely deployed his reserve chute as he was preparing to jump from a C-130. This video footage shows the unfortunate accident as it rapidly unfolded, Cavner being swept out of the troop carrier at 1,300 feet above ground level, killed instantly when he struck his head on the plane’s door edge, breaking his neck.

The impact was so strong that it cracked Cavner’s helmet and was universally reported to have been felt throughout the entire aircraft.

The reserve chute that deployed prematurely and which started this sequence of events was manufactured by Airborne Systems of North America CA. The specific model type is the MC-6 Personnel Parachute System – a model still commonly used throughout the U.S. Special Operations Command. Following Cavner’s death the Navy initiated a study of the parachute system’s safety and identified four other instances where a soldier’s reserve chute had prematurely deployed. (None of those four incidents had resulted in a fatality — and the second video shown earlier was in fact one of the other, earlier, incidents.)

Following the Navy’s investigation modifications were made to procedures relating to the parachute’s use around open aircraft doors… but that wasn’t the end of the probe into the reserve chute’s safety.

In late-2015 Cavner’s parents, Beth and Steve, filed a lawsuit against Airborne Systems and Hunter Defense Technologies, alleging that there was a design defect in the reserve system. That suit, Cavner v. Airborne Systems North America of CA, Inc. (3:15-cv-02656-LAB-BGS), plodded its way through the southern California court system, crawling through discovery at a pace that drew the court’s admonishment, both parties apparently plagued by procedural issues. The Cavner suit ultimately ended with a voluntary dismissal on June 8, 2017, courtesy of a confidential settlement agreement.

Bradley S. Cavner had enlisted in the Navy on February 3, 2003 and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, in April 2003. In July 2004, Cavner completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL and SEAL Qualification training in Coronado with class 247. He had served with West Coast-based SEAL units since August 2004. 

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Good Conduct Medal (3), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3), Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon and the NATO Medal.

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