8 March 2024

Army special forces soldier dies in parachute training exercise

| Andrew McLaughlin
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LCPL Jack Fitzgibbon

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon died during training. Photo: ADF.

An Australian Army special forces soldier based at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney’s south has died after a parachute training exercise at RAAF Base Richmond on Wednesday (6 March) evening.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon – the son of former Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon – was a member of the 2nd Commando Regiment (2Cdo), and died from injuries sustained during parachute training.

The fields around Richmond are commonly used for parachute training due to their proximity to the base allowing a quick turnaround of aircraft for training. Parachute-trained soldiers regularly jump from high altitude or from as low as 1000 feet (300 metres) using Richmond-based C-130J Hercules, visiting C-27J Spartan or contracted C-212 aircraft.

It has been reported that LCPL Fitzgibbon had jumped from 14,000 feet and had a tangled main parachute. He reportedly landed near the Sydney Polo Club alongside the Hawkesbury River northwest of the base.

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“Jack was a much loved and respected soldier within the 2nd Commando Regiment which is part of the special operations command within Army,” Brigadier James Kidd told media yesterday afternoon (7 March).

“Jack was loved for his courage and known for his sense of humour and his service to the country. Members of the 2nd Commando Regiment have paused and ceased training at this time, and they are mustering at Holsworthy to process this news that I am sharing with you.

“Jack had served his country on operations abroad, and also closer to home serving his country and communities as part of natural disaster responses,” he added.

“Defence has initiated a formal investigation into this incident as we seek to learn how we can strengthen our processes, but we acknowledge that military training is inherently risky, and we remain committed to constantly training at the highest standard to achieve the excellence we know our nation demands of us.”

Holsworthy is also home base to Army’s No 173 Special Operations Aviation Squadron which previously operated the MRH 90 Taipan helicopter and which suffered a crash during a training exercise in July 2023 with the loss of four crew members.

In a statement from Joel Fitzgibbon, he said the family was devastated and heartbroken by the loss of Jack.

“Serving in the special forces was Jack’s dream job and we take some comfort from the fact that he died serving his nation in a uniform of the ADF,” he said.

“Jack was a dedicated, highly skilled, and courageous soldier. He was an experienced parachutist.

“Our lives will never be the same without Jack, but we will always remain proud of him and his many achievements.”

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Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said Jack’s death was a tragedy and that his life had been taken far too early.

“Every one of Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon’s friends and colleagues in the Australian Defence Force will be feeling the heaviness of this news today.

“Jack loved serving in the special forces and he did so with honour and great ability,” he said.

“Whenever a serving member of the Defence Force loses their life they have loved ones who are impacted,” he added.

“In this instance, Jack’s father, Joel Fitzgibbon, is a close friend of mine. All of Joel’s friends are feeling this tragedy particularly.”

Army parachutists

Photo: ADF.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese echoed Mr Marles’ comments.

“The extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve in the Australian Defence Force do our nation proud every day,” he said.

“Every death in the service of Australia carries the heavy weight of loss and sadness. The tragedy of a life cut cruelly short.

“Our hearts are filled with sorrow for Jack, and his loving family – Joel, Dianne and his sisters – who are now holding on to his precious memory,” he added.

“We think also of all who served with Jack and are now coming to terms with the loss of their friend and mate.”

If this story has raised issues for you, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24-hour crisis support. Mental health support for veterans and their families is also available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling on 1800 011 046.

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