Chutes float off course reservists are rescued

March 24, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Dozens of soldiers, firefighters and police officers searched the woods near Gambrills last night and rescued several parachutists from a U.S. Army Reserve unit who had floated off course in a practice drop.

One parachutist was missing for nearly 90 minutes before apparently finding his way out of the woods, and Army searchers rescued at least two others who were caught in trees in the vicinity of the U.S. Naval Academy Dairy Farm off Annapolis Road, officials said.

Battalion Chief Gary Sheckells, an Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman, said no injuries were reported.

Details were sketchy about the incident, which was reported to county authorities at 7:19 p.m.

Kathy Vantran, a Fort Meade spokeswoman, said the jump was part of a routine nighttime exercise performed by the 11th Special Forces, using a drop zone at the dairy farm.

For an unknown reason, "some of them veered off course," she said.

An Army official at the scene, who would not give his name, said one parachutist was missing and several were trapped in trees. He said it was a high-altitude jump.

Dozens of soldiers along with military firefighters from Fort Meade searched woods along Route 175, at the Dairy Farm and across the street behind Kaufmann's Tavern on Gambrills Road, where Army officials had set up a parking-lot command post.

Army and state police MedEvac helicopters flew overhead, illuminating the woods with searchlights. County police officers checked back roads in the area.

Chief Sheckells said his department dispatched one ladder truck from the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company to Kaufmann's parking lot to help the Army searchers communicate with the state police helicopter.

He said county firefighters were not involved in the search.

Chief Sheckells said that, based on information from county firefighters at the scene, the missing parachutist simply walked to a command center about 8:45 p.m.

"We don't know how he was found," the spokesman said.

"He apparently cut himself down. He just kind of walked back by himself."

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