Monday 26 September 2016

Soldier quizzed as wife injured after parachute fails to open

Emma Clark

Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30

Emile Cilliers, who was questioned by police after his wife’s parachute failed
Emile Cilliers, who was questioned by police after his wife’s parachute failed

A British soldier has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after his wife’s parachute failed to open during a skydive.

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South African-born Sgt Emile Cilliers (35) was questioned by police last week after his wife Victoria plummeted 4,000 feet to the ground.

The experienced 39-year-old parachutist “miraculously survived” but sustained multiple serious injuries following what should have been a “routine” jump above Salisbury Plain on April 5, according to Wiltshire Police.

Mrs Cilliers suffered broken ribs, a broken leg, broken collarbone, and serious spinal injuries when both her main and reserve chutes failed to work properly during a solo jump on Easter Sunday.

Her husband, an instructor with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps attached to the Royal Engineers, was arrested for attempted murder and released on bail last week. Police described how Mrs Cilliers’ main parachute first failed to deploy after she jumped from a Cessna aircraft at 4,000 feet.

She deployed her first parachute at 3,000 feet but it did not open.

She frantically pulled on her reserve parachute and it also failed but opened just enough to slow her descent from a fatal velocity as she plummeted to the ground.

Mrs Cilliers managed to avoid landing on a road during her fall but still crash-landed into a field at an estimated 30mph.

Rarity

The concerned parachute club at Netheravon Airfield alerted police to the rarity of the incident a day later.

Detectives said that “slinks” or soft links used to connect the canopy to the parachute harness were “missing”.

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said: “This woman would have been dead if her chute hadn’t partially opened, this meant her descent was slowed enough for her to survive the fall.

“However, we were alerted to concerns over what had happened by the parachute club and as a result instigated an investigation.”

He added: “In particular, we are looking for ‘slinks’ that were missing from the parachute which may have been removed and discarded somewhere.

“This woman survived this fall miraculously but despite her experience she very nearly lost her life.”

Mrs Cilliers, from Amesbury in Wiltshere, was taken to Southampton General Hospital with “multiple serious injuries” after her impact and is now recovering at home, police said.

Mr Franklin added that while police have spoken to many members of the parachute club, they still want any other witnesses to the incident to come forward.

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