EVERETT - George Salyer, who set two skydiving records, the first on his 91st birthday, died Sunday at 101 in a house fire.
A passer-by reported Salyer's house on fire about 6:25 a.m.
"It was too far gone for us to make a rescue," said Leslie Hynes, a spokeswoman for Snohomish County Fire District 1. "The whole house was in flames when we got there."
Salyer was found dead in the basement. Cause of the fire was under investigation.
Born in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers took off at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Salyer was a lifelong machinist who helped design and build tools at Boeing until he retired in the 1960s.
He owned 17 different planes during his lifetime but didn't begin skydiving until his 88th birthday. After that first jump he became an avid jumper, observing each birthday with a jump from about 12,000 feet until two or three years ago.
With his birthday jump on June 18, 1992, he became the oldest male tandem skydiver in the world.
Three years later his family set a record for a multigenerational jump when he was joined by a 71-year-old son, a 40-year-old grandson and a 15-year-old great-grandson.
He reluctantly quit after his skydiving tandem partner stopped jumping for health reasons, said Jo Salyer of Kenmore, his daughter-in-law.
"He loved it," she said. "He wanted to jump again, but there just wasn't anybody to do it with him."
Nov 5, 2002, 3:52 PM
Post #3 of 8
Re: [quade] Famed Elderly Skydiver Dies In House Fire - press clips
[In reply to]
I saw this on our local news. I thought, how terrific that he was able to fulfill a dream of his and how great that at his age he accomplished it! Of course it was tandems but he still did it! How sad he died in a fire though. His jumps made it to the newscasts and let everyone know it was possible.
Nov 8, 2002, 5:59 PM
Post #7 of 8
Re: [jtval] Famed Elderly Skydiver Dies In House Fire - press clips
[In reply to]
In reply to:
curious... he was 101 yrs old. do you think he died while in the midst of do something that could cause a fire? or do you think the fire started first? and smoke got him?
Don't know the answer to that one. However, my thinking is that since he was found in the basement, he was thinking -how- to get away from the smoke and went to the lowest position possible. He was a smart cookie and would probably think like that.
George used oxygen 24/7 (for breathing) so I -know- he wasn't playing with anything that could spark a fire around him. I'm sure that it started elsewhere, out of his control.
101-year-old knew how to jump for joy Sky diver made Guinness Book of Records
By M.L. LYKE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
EVERETT -- Days before his death, 101-year-old George Salyer was still talking about his next big jump.
The feisty sky diver, who made the Guinness Book of Records for a tandem jump on his 91st birthday, was killed in a fire early Sunday.
The fire, called in about 6:25 a.m., had engulfed Mr. Salyer's home by the time firefighters arrived, and flames prevented them from entering. Mr. Salyer was found in the bedroom.
Relatives yesterday described Mr. Salyer as a fun-loving adventurer who knew the secret to good health and long life: oatmeal.
His granddaughter, Cathy Little, said Mr. Salyer loved to see the expressions on people's faces when he told them he was 101.
"His favorite waitresses -- he'd get hugs from them," she said.
He was proud to still have his driver's license and live on his own, and he was full of plans.
Those plans included more dives.
"He said he would sign anything, and pay any insurance, just to jump again," Little said.
Mr. Salyer was born June 18, 1901, the year Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as U.S. president. It was two years before Orville Wright flew 120 feet in an "air machine" and six years before Henry Ford rolled out the $850 Model T Ford.
Mr. Salyer grew up in Durango, Colo., where he remembered skiing over the tops of trees when snow blanketed the town.
Always mechanically minded, he worked at designing and building tools for The Boeing Co., retiring in the 1960s.
He was an accomplished pilot who owned more than a dozen planes. Little said he once commented, "Why would you want to jump out of a good, working airplane?"
But sky diving became Mr. Salyer's passion. His first dive was on his 88th birthday.
"He always said that the first one was better than the second -- because the second time, you know what's coming," Little said.
He celebrated every birthday after that first jump with more dives, from about 12,000 feet. He sometimes talked members of his large family into joining him up high. In 1995 his family set a record for a multigenerational jump with Mr. Salyer, his 71-year-old son, a 40-year-old grandson and a 15-year-old great-grandson.
Daughter-in-law Jo Salyer said Mr. Salyer thrived on the media attention the dives drew.
"He always wanted to be sure the TV people would be there to take his picture," she said. "That really made him happy."
On Mr. Salyer's last jump a few years back, he had to take oxygen to help him get his breath.
Relatives said that, despite a weakening physique, he would have kept jumping if his sky-diving partner hadn't had a stroke and lost his license.
"No one else wanted to take the responsibility," Jo Salyer said.
Mr. Salyer is survived by two sons, George and Robert Salyer; and a daughter, Eleanor Beagle. He had 11 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.
He is also survived by the cat Mr. Salyer called Tommy and his veterinarian called Morris.
P-I reporter M.L. Lyke can be reached at 425-252-2215 or firstname.lastname@example.org