FIVE to be released, five remain hospitalized after U.S. paratroopers injured in Germany

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BERLIN (AP) _ Five U.S. paratroopers were to be discharged from hospitals Friday, leaving five still hospitalized after hard landings injured 32 soldiers during a training jump in southern Germany.

In all, thirteen soldiers were hospitalized during the jump Thursday evening at the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr in Bavaria. Three were released overnight.

The most seriously hurt soldier suffered head injuries. He was moved out of an intensive care unit Friday and was in stable condition in a regular ward, said Capt. Jeff Settle, a spokesman for the training command. Another soldier was hospitalized with a fractured pelvis.

``It wasn't that the equipment malfunctioned, it wasn't that they missed the drop zone, it was just hard landings for everybody across the way,'' Settle said.

A total of 382 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade _ part of the Southern European Task Force of the U.S. Army Europe stationed in Vicenza, Italy _ were involved in the training exercise.

They were dropped from nine Air Force C-130 propeller-driven aircraft at a height of 1,200 feet, a typical altitude for combat missions, Settle said, and were dangling 35- to 50-pound rucksacks on lines below them. During such jumps, the packs hit the ground first and the soldiers release them just before they land.

The parachutes, which are triggered to open automatically when the soldiers leave the aircraft, functioned properly, Settle said. The injuries were primarily leg, ankle and knee injuries. The 32 soldiers were evacuated by helicopter.

The weather was clear for the jump, and winds were light as the soldiers fell onto an area of rolling terrain with hard-packed dirt and little grass cover.

``From the standpoint of the paratroopers, it was a normal jump,'' Maj. Gen. Robert W. Wagner, the commander of the Southern European Task Force, said in a statement.

Settle said the soldiers were experienced, and some of the injured had done as many as 280 jumps. None of their identities were released.

No formal investigation will be launched into the accident, Settle said, but officials were reviewing the incident to ensure that safety procedures were followed.

``These guys are doing dangerous missions almost on a daily basis. When they come up here to train, they understand the risks,'' Settle said.