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Family of US Special Forces soldier who died in skydiving accident sues parachute manufacturer

Capt. James Ahn

By KELLY PUENTE | The Orange County Register (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 12, 2017

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The parents of a 29-year-old United States Special Forces soldier who fell to his death in a skydiving exercise is suing a Santa Ana, Calif.-based manufacturing company alleging that the accident was cause by a stitching defect in his parachute.

Capt. James M. Ahn died on Sept. 11, 2015 after he jumped out of a small airplane during a routine training operation with his team over the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Authorities found his body in the woods after a 10-hour search, according to news reports.

In their wrongful death lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court on Monday against Airborne Systems North America, Jacob and Karen Ahn say an Army investigation determined their son’s death was largely caused by a manufacturing defect in his pack’s reserve parachute.

“The Army found that the manufacturing defect was unprecedented in parachuting and not obvious to the naked eye, but deadly,” the lawsuit says.

Airborne Systems, which has an office on Segerstrom Avenue in Santa Ana, is a “world leader in military parachute design, manufacturing and training,” according to its website.

A representative of the company did not return phone calls seeking comment. The U.S. Army didn’t return a message, either.

In an obscure error, the manufacturer missed a four-point stitch in a riser, which guides the chords connecting the chute to the backpack, according to the lawsuit.

The stitching was necessary to give the riser strength for the parachute to inflate properly and function safely, the suit says.

The suit says the MC-4 parachute, which was constructed in Santa Ana, had other manufacturing issues and lacked adequate warnings regarding the structural integrity.

Originally from La Crescenta, Ahn was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Wash. He earned many awards and decorations including the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

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©2017 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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