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Desperate final act before soldier’s death

Jack Fitzgibbon with his family. Picture: Instagram
Jack Fitzgibbon with his family. Picture: Instagram

The son of former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was trying to cut the lines to his malfunctioning parachute before he died, it’s been reported.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon died in a parachuting accident on Wednesday while taking part in a Special Forces training exercise.

He was undertaking a “routine” military training drill at the RAAF base in Richmond, 50km northwest of Sydney, on Wednesday night at about 6.30pm when his parachute failed to deploy.

He suffered critical head injuries and was taken to Westmead Hospital, in Sydney’s west, where he died.

Corporal Fitzgibbon’s sister Grace Fitzgibbon, a Channel 7 journalist, paid tribute on Instagram saying: “I love you my darling big brother, I am so proud of you” and calling him “our guardian angel”.

Jack Fitzgibbon with his family. Picture: Instagram
The family of Jack Fitzgibbon (rear) say they are heartbroken. Picture: Instagram
JOEL FITZGIBBON VALEDICTORY SPEECH
Joel Fitzgibbon served as Defence Minister during the Rudd and Gillard governments. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Desperate final act

The Daily Mail has reported that Mr Fitzgibbon was performing a jump from 14,000 feet (4260 metres).

When his parachute didn’t fully open he used a knife to try and cut the suspension lines attaching him to the malfunctioning kit as he fell. That would have allowed him to deploy his reserve parachute.

However, his body was found still clutching the knife, the media outlet reported.

Supplied  Son of former Labor minister Joel Fitzgibbon, Jack Fitzgibbon, killed\n in military training accident
Sister Grace Fitzgibbon’s tribute to her brother. Picture: Instagram.
Supplied  Son of former Labor minister Joel Fitzgibbon, Jack Fitzgibbon, killed\n in military training accident
The family were close. Picture: Instagram.

Defence published a statement on behalf of the Fitzgibbon family.

“We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful Jack.

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

“Serving in the special forces was Jack’s dream job and we take comfort from the fact he died serving his nation in the uniform of the Australian Defence Force.

The family said Jack was a dedicated, highly skilled and courageous soldier, and an experienced parachutist.

Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon with son Jack who was killed in a military training exercise. Supplied
Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon with son Jack who was killed in a military training exercise. Supplied
The family say they are devastated by Jack’s death. Supplied
The family say they are devastated by Jack’s death. Supplied

Brigadier Kidd confirmed Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon’s death on Thursday afternoon.

He said he was loved for his courage and known for his sense of humour.

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

Brigadier Kidd said members of Lance Corporal’s regiment had paused its training exercise and a formal investigation into the incident was underway.

“We acknowledge that military training is inherently risky, and we remain committed to constantly training at the highest standard to achieve the level of excellence that we know our nation demands of us,” he added.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon has died following injuries he sustained during a parachuting incident. Picture: ADF
Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon has died following injuries he sustained during a parachuting incident. Picture: ADF
Australian Army Parachute Training
Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon was taking part in a parachute exercise when his chute failed to deploy. Supplied: Defence

According to eyewitness accounts, published in local newspaper The Hawkesbury Post, a soldier’s parachute failed to deploy as they, and another soldier came into land near the Sydney Polo Club, not far from the base.

In a statement, Defence Minister Richard Marles, a close friend of Joel Fitzgibbon, paid tribute to Corporal Fitzgibbon, labelling his death a “tragedy”.

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

Mr Marles said Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon had served with honour and great ability.

“My thoughts are with Jack’s entire family, including Joel, Jack’s mother Dianne, his partner and his sisters.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also shared his condolences with Corporal Fitzgibbon’s family.

“This tragic accident is a harsh reminder that there are no easy days for those who defend our nation,” Mr Albanese said.

“Today the burden of grief falls on a dear friend to so many in the Labor family.

“May Jack rest in peace.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton issued a joint statement with opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie and assistant spokesman Phillip Thompson.

“Like his father Joel, Jack Fitzgibbon loved his country and felt a calling to serve it. But he chose a different path to his father – the army instead of the parliament,” they said.

“Jack’s tragic death will be felt across the entire Australian Defence Force, especially the 2nd Commando Regiment.”

Former prime minister Scott Morrison also paid tribute.

“Feeling for everyone at 2 Commando for the terrible loss of LCPL Jack Fitzgibbon who was killed in a parachuting incident,” he posted on X.

“And especially his family, including his father and former parliamentary colleague Joel Fitzgibbon. A sad loss. We are forever thankful for his service.”

Defence has started initiated a formal investigation into the incident, Brigadier Kidd said.

“But we acknowledge military training is inherently risky and we remain committed to constantly training at the highest standards to achieve the level of excellence we know our nation demands of us.”