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Defence Forces Update - Death of serving Defence Forces member in parachuting accident

The Defence Forces can confirm the name of the serving member who tragically died in a parachuting accident in Spain yesterday as Acting Sergeant Major Declan O'Connell.

Acting Sergeant Major O'Connell was a native of County Kildare and was 54 years of age. He was undertaking a civilian parachute instructors' course in Spain, in a private capacity and was off duty, on Sunday 12th February 2023, when the tragic incident occurred.

The Defence Forces would like to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Acting Sgt Maj Declan O’Connell. 

Acting Sgt Maj O'Connell joined the Defence Forces in February 1990 and his home unit was the Cadet School, Military College in the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh Camp. 

Acting Sgt Maj O'Connell had a very distinguished 33-year career in the Defence Forces. He completed a number of international military courses, including the prestigious Platoon Sergeants Battle Course with the UK Armed Forces and leadership courses in the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. He was a physical training instructor, confidence training instructor, driving instructor, APC Instructor and live fire tactical trainer, and he trained officer cadets in the Cadet School for over 20 years. 

He served overseas on nine (9) occasions with the Defence Forces, in Lebanon, Kosovo, Mali and Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

He was also an avid parachutist and jumpmaster. He completed a Military Static Line (MSL) course in the Curragh in 2004 and another in Belgium with the Cadet School in 2008. He qualified as a military jumpmaster in 2018 and had completed almost 700 jumps.

The Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, sends his deepest sympathies to the family of Acting Sgt Maj O'Connell and stated that "Declan was an outstanding soldier and leader who was highly respected by all who had the pleasure to serve with him. He will be sorely missed by his Defence Forces family and my thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this extremely difficult time."

The Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) of the Defence Forces and President of Defence Forces Parachuting, Major General Adrian Ó Murchú, stated "Acting Sgt Maj Declan ‘Doc’ O’Connell was an exemplar for all that is good about the Defence Forces. Along with his remarkable military career, overseas service and many other achievements, he was a leading member of the ‘Black Knights’, the DF Parachute Display Team. In that capacity he was always the first to volunteer, either to take part in a display or to support the team as Drop Zone Controller, even if it meant that he didn’t get to jump himself. A natural leader and instructor, he was a great mentor to younger jumpers, and while he was a highly qualified instructor in multiple fields, he was always open to new learning himself. This was shown by the fact that even though he was a qualified military jumpmaster, he was working towards a complementary sports qualification in his own time. He was a champion for all the DF values, especially moral and physical courage, selflessness and integrity. Above all, Doc was a great soldier, team-mate and friend to all who knew him, and a born leader who inspired the many cadets that he trained over the years. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis”.