Former defence minister’s son dies in Army accident

Jack Fitzgibbon (right) was the only son of former Labor defence minister Joel.

Jack Fitzgibbon (right) was the only son of former Labor defence minister Joel. Photos: Getty/ADF

The son of former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon has died after a parachute accident during an ADF training exercise.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was taking part in a routine training exercise at RAAF Richmond, about 50 kilometres north-west of Sydney, on Wednesday night when the incident occurred.

He was taken to Sydney’s Westmead Hospital but died on Thursday.

“We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful Jack. 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 Fitzgibbon family said in a statement read out by ADF spokesman Acting Special Operations Commander Brigadier James Kidd.

“Jack was a dedicated, highly skilled and courageous soldier, an experienced parachutist. Our lives will never be the same without Jack but we will always remain proud of him and his many achievements.”

Kidd said Jack Fitzgibbon had served overseas and in responses to natural disasters in Australia.

“It is too early to speculate about what may have gone wrong in that parachuting incident,” he said.

“We train parachuting exercises and operations with regularity. I am a special forces qualified parachutist. I know first-hand how difficult particular military skill is and we demand our paratroopers to reach the highest standard. As I note, however, it is too early to speculate on what may have occurred in detail.”

The ADF has opened an investigation into the accident and all parachute training exercises have been suspended.

Current Defence Minister Richard Marles also offered his sympathy to the Fitzgibbon family, saying the death was a tragedy.

“Whenever a serving member of the Defence Force loses their life they have loved ones who are impacted. In this instance, Jack’s father, Joel Fitzgibbon, is a close friend of mine. All of Joel’s friends are feeling this tragedy particularly,” he said.

“Today, Joel stands in my embrace, as he does in the embrace of all of our colleagues.

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

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also offered a tribute.

“Our thoughts are with our friend Joel Fitzgibbon and his family following the tragic death of his son,” he wrote on X.

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

“We are so grateful to every Australian who serves and puts themselves on the line for all of us.

“Today the burden of grief falls on a dear friend to so many in the Labor family. Our hearts are filled with sorrow.”

Fitzgibbon is a former Labor MP who was defence minister in the Rudd government from 2007-2009. He retired from politics in 2022.

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