Captain James M. Ahn was a United States Special Forces soldier who died on September 11, 2015. The 29-year-old fell to his death in a skydiving exercise. His parents, Jacob and Karen Ahn, are suing the company that manufactured the parachute he was using. The suit alleges there was a stitching defect in his parachute, and that is the reason for his death.
Airborne Systems in Santa Ana, California, is the manufacturer named in the lawsuit. An Army investigation determined Capt. Ahn died largely due to 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 states.
The Airborne Systems website says the company is a “world leader in military parachute design, manufacturing and training.” Recent reports say a representative of the company didn’t return phone calls seeking a comment about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims it was an obscure error that caused the soldier’s death. The manufacturer allegedly missed a four-point stitch in a riser, which guides the cords that connect the parachute to the backpack. That stitching was needed to provide the riser strength for the parachute to properly inflate and function safely.
In addition, the lawsuit states the MC-4 parachute had other manufacturing mistakes as well. It also claims the parachute lacked adequate warnings about structural integrity.
James M. Ahn and his team jumped out of a small plane during a routine training operation over the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. His body was discovered by authorities in a wooded area following a 10-hour search.
On the morning of his last jump, Capt. Ahn humored his teammates into gathering for a group picture. It was taken as the group boarded their plane. His family now has a copy of the photo–the last ever taken of their beloved son.
Ahn’s death stunned the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Special Operations community. His was the first parachute- related death for a local unit since 2005. It is only the ninth parachute-related death in the entire Army in more than five years.
Capt. James M. Ahn originally hailed from La Crescenta, California. He joined the 1st Special Forces Group in May 2014 and was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. A devoted Army man, he was a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. Ironically, he received a Rigger Badge for successfully packing parachutes.
Capt. Ahn was buried with full military honors in the Los Angeles National Cemetery. His family requested the presence of the Patriot Guard Riders. This organization of motorcycle riders, at the request of the families, attends the funerals of military members, firefighters and police officers to create an honor guard and a barrier between the grieving and the harassment of protesters.
Ahn’s name is etched on a memorial wall at the 1st Special Forces Group headquarters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He will be forever remembered by his parents, who have filed this lawsuit in his honor.