Clipped From Logansport Pharos-Tribune
'Treacherous/ Unpredictable Winds Blamed For 4 Paratroopers 1 Deaths FORT IRWIN, Calif. (UPI) - Military investigators investigators believe "flue- like" winds howling through a mountain pass may have caused the deaths of four paratroopers and injures to scores more in a massive Mojave Desert mock war. "There was no way to anticipate this freak wind gust," Maj. Jake Dye said Wednesday in blaming the tragic jump on the winds, which flared unexpectedly and howled just a lew hundred yards from a calm area. The jump by about 2,300 paratroopers at dawn Tuesday launched the first day of Gallant Eagle 82. an eight-day mock war described described as the largest military exercise since World War II. Some 45.000 troops are involved in the exercise. The U.S. Readiness Command, which is overseeing the exercise, said Wednesday that I5(i paratroopers were treated for injuries after the jump. Fifty-eight troopers were evacuated to an Air Force Base near Fort Bragg, N.C. Dye, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, said the division was investigating the possibilty that several paratroopers were trapped by an unexpected unexpected pocket of high ground winds. "We had no experience to anticipate this effect." he said. "It was a flue-like effect." Dye said officers suspected suspected the winds at the drop site may have been blowing erratically after shooting up a gap between two nearby mountains, causing the troopers to lose control of their chutes. Maj. Thomas Smith of Fayetteville, N.C., a two- year veteran of Vietnam arid operations officer Of an infantry battalion, told UPI the winds were "the worst he'd ever seen." Smi'* 1 said he watched as his friend and assistant, 1st Lt. Robert Breitmayer, 27. of Forest Grove, Ore., was killed after hitting the desert floor. "He was dragged to death, with his skull beating beating on the stones." Smith said. The Army's announcement announcement about the turbulent winds seemed to confirm reports from several of the injured soldiers and journalists on the ground that gusting winds over one of the five drop sites scattered men and equipment equipment over a 2 ' 2-mile area of the Mojave Desert. Spec. 4 John Painter, who broke his collarbone in the tragic jump, said winds were gusting so high that some of the soldiers were "completely dragged out of their parachute harnesses harnesses and out of their uniforms." Also killed during training training exercise was Spec. 4. Algarin R. Quinones, 19, of Canodanas, Puerto Rico: .Spec. 4. Larry D. Dunlap, 23, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Staff Sgt, Michael W. Moore, 30, of Humboldt. Tenn. Dye stressed three of the four fatalities occurred in one small area on the southern rim of Drop Zone Silver. He said the wind speed on the ground was within acceptable limits at the time of the drop. "Winds are probably the worst enemy in an airborne operation," he said. "We can jump in the dark, in the rain, in almost any conditions, but winds are a problem." Painter, a veteran of 40 jumps, and another soldier who had spoken to four more injured paratroopers, told UPI reporter reporter Craig Webb at Fort Bragg, N.C., the wind conditions made the jump treacherous and it should have been scrubbed by the commanding officer. "If he (the commanding officer) had gone through the dispensary (where the injured were treated), I don't think he would have gotten out of it alive," Painter said. Painter said the paratroopers had "no control control at all" when they left the plane. "You just went down hoping you would make it," he said.