This accident happened on April 16, 2003 and this article reports the findings of the investigation.
'Tangled lines' killed parachutist
A 75-year-old death fell to his death when he failed to respond to instructions after his parachute tangled during a 3,500 feet jump.
Francis Simmons, 75, had been jumping from a plane at Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire, when the parachute lines became wrapped around his left arm.
An inquest heard on Wednesday that despite radio instructions Mr Simmons, of Conrad Road, Plymouth, never corrected the canopy and suffered fatal injuries on landing.
Deputy coroner Rodney Haig, who recorded a verdict of accidental death, said there was no explanation why this had happened.
The inquest at Northampton General Hospital was told Mr Simmons had taken up parachuting three years ago and had carried out a number of jumps for charity after his only son died of cancer.
Instructors from Hinton Skydiving Centre, where Mr Simmons made the fatal jump on 16 April 2003, said the pensioner had told instructors he was only 64 so they would allow him to parachute from 3,500 feet.
The instructors added Mr Simmons was considered fully fit and competent to do the jump alone, having undertaken nine previous parachute jumps.
On the morning of 16 April he was given a refresher course and his equipment was fully checked.
Skydiving instructor Alex Waller said Mr Simmons left the plane without hesitation but quickly became entangled.
"He made no effort to solve the problem," he said. "When they leave the plane there is nothing you can do."
Brian Poole, a second skydiving instructor, said he had been talking on the radio to Mr Simmons as he descended.
He said despite instructions to check his canopy, he made no attempt to carry out what was an "easy manoeuvre".
Mr Simmons was taken to John Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford where he later died of multiple injuries.
Mr Simmons's ex-wife, Lillian Webber, said he took up parachuting to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research after their 51-year-old son died from cancer in 2000.
She said: "He was a Peter Pan, he was young at heart and took care of himself and other people."
Mr Haig said: "He was contacted by radio and given the instructions to check his canopy but he seemed for some reason to have ignored that instruction.
"There seems to be no explanation for why he did this."
I can't say I remember it being talked about here either. I did a cursory search before posting this and didn't come up with anything.
As I've said before, it's usually not in any drop zone's best interest to put out an unsolicited announcement of an accident so we usually have to rely on either skydivers making an announcement or reports from the media. Skydivers can be very protective of their drop zones and sometimes won't say anything at all and sometimes the news misses the initial accident. Sometimes we only hear about the accident well after the fact when a coroner's report is released and a reporter working the police blotter beat will then pick it up.
After doing this for awhile, I'd make a guess that maybe as many as 5% of fatalities are kept out of the "googleable" media initially. I assume that most of those are eventually covered by the media via the coroner's reports, but I also assume that at least a few are never covered at all in such a way that we'd be able to report them all here.
(This post was edited by quade on Sep 17, 2003, 1:48 PM)
Accidental death verdict on 'Peter Pan' parachutist
A "Peter Pan" character who took up skydiving in his 70s mysteriously plunged to his death after he did not respond to any instructions as his parachute spiraled out of control, an inquest has heard.
Francis Charles Simmons, 75, told instructors he was only 64 so that they would allow him to do the 3,500ft jump at Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire.
As he leapt out of the plane the parachute lines became entangled around his left arm and despite radio instructions he never corrected the simple problem, falling at speed towards the ground and suffering fatal injuries on landing.
The coroner heard Mr Simmons had taken up the sport three years before, doing a number of parachute jumps for charity after his only son died of cancer.
Instructors told the inquest at Northampton General Hospital that Mr Simmons was considered fully fit and competent to do the jump alone, having undertaken nine previous parachute jumps.
Skydiving instructor Alex Waller said Mr Simmons left the plane without hesitation. He had seemed relaxed throughout the aircraft's ascent. He noticed very quickly the left-hand lines of the parachute had come in front of Mr Simmons's left arm, but he had been taught in training how to rectify the problem.
He said: "He made no effort to solve the problem. It would have taken a lot of effort to keep his arms down."
Mr Simmons's ex-wife, Lillian Webber, said the pensioner had a passion for outdoor sports and physical activity.
She said: "He was a Peter Pan. He was young at heart and took care of himself and other people."
Deputy coroner Rodney Haig recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Here is the British Parachute Assoc's Safety Board's findings on this incident.
At approximately 10.20 hours on Wednesday 16th April 2003, Francis Charles Simmons boarded a Cessna 206 aircraft at the Hinton Skydiving Centre, in order to make what is believed to have been his tenth jump, following a number of jumps spread over a period of just under three years. His first jump being a Tandem jump had taken place on the 6th July 2000. He had completed several training courses and revision-training sessions during that period, the last having taken place that morning.
The aircraft climbed to 2,200 ft AGL above the PLA, where the Jumpmaster released a WDI.
The aircraft then climbed to 3,500 ft, during which time the Jumpmaster gave Francis Simmons a pre-jump check. The aircraft then ‘ran in’ over the top of the PLA, at which time Francis Simmons was instructed to move to the door to prepare for exit.
On the command of the Jumpmaster, Francis Simmons made a good release from the aircraft, maintaining a good body position. As the parachute started to deploy, he was seen to catch his arm in the parachute rigging lines.
The parachute was seen to fully deploy, but was then observed to be turning to the left, and continued to do so until he impacted with the ground.
A BPA Board of Inquiry was formed, consisting of John Hitchen, Tony Butler and Ian Cashman. During the investigation it was discovered that Francis Simmons had deceived the Clubs he had jumped at into believing that he was 63 years of age. It was subsequently discovered that he was 75 years of age.
Following the investigation, the Board came to the following Conclusions:
‘Francis Simmons’ initial exit from the aircraft was good, but as the main parachute started to deploy he may have caught his left arm in the rigging lines, causing the main parachute to distort on full deployment. It is also possible that the static line initially went under his arm during exit, thereby enabling the parachute deployment bag and risers to pass under his arm and his arm then catching in the parachute rigging lines, which could have had the same effect, of distorting the parachute, causing it to rotate.
The Board believe that he made no attempt to extract his arm from the parachute rigging lines, either because he was unconscious, or because he was unable to for either physical or psychological reasons. The Board believe that the parachute continued to rotate until impact.
It is unlikely that he would have been permitted to take part in initial parachute training had any of the clubs known his correct age’.