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Forensic Analysis of Parachute Deaths

Burke, Michael Philip MB, BS, BSc, FRCPA, Dip Forens Path; Chitty, Johannes

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2017 - Volume 38 - Issue 1 - p 83–89
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000291
Review Article

Deaths associated with parachuting are very uncommon. However, these deaths do tend to be “high profile” in the traditional and social media. When forensic pathologists examine the deceased after a fatal parachuting incident, the anatomical cause of death is usually not in question. For most forensic pathologists, it is usually the case that we will have very limited knowledge of parachuting equipment or the mechanics of a typical successful parachute jump. As such, the investigation of the death should involve a multidisciplinary approach with an appropriate expert providing the formal forensic examination of the parachuting equipment. We have endeavored to describe, in simple terms, the usual components of a typical parachute rig, a précis of the sequence of events in a routine skydive and BASE jump, and the various types of malfunctions that may occur. Last, we present a case report of a BASE jump fatality to illustrate how an expert examination of the BASE jumper's gear aided the medicolegal investigation of the death with some important aspects in the forensic examination of the jumper's equipment.

From the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Manuscript received July 3, 2016; accepted November 13, 2016.

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Michael Philip Burke, MB, BS, BSc, FRCPA, Dip Forens Path, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, 65 Kavanagh Street, South Bank, Melbourne, Victoria 3006, Australia. E-mail: michaelb@vifm.org.

© 2017 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.