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Canadian skydiver dies in Florida jump

By adminon - Read 2504 times

DELAND, Fla. (CP-AP) - An experienced Canadian skydiver died after making a tricky high-speed turn too close to the ground, crashing into the pavement at a popular Florida skydiving centre. Stephane Drapeau, 30, from Beloeil, Que., was making a routine jump until he made the high-speed turn at an extremely low altitude as he approached the landing area at Skydive DeLand near the municipal airport.

Drapeau had about 4,700 jumps before Friday's accident.

DeLand Police Lieut. John Bradley said Drapeau slammed into a strip of pavement at a high speed causing massive injuries.

''He was wearing a helmet, but at times they can go as fast as 80 mph (130 km/h) when they make that turn,'' Bradley told the Canadian Press.

''His chute deployed properly ... His canopy probably collapsed or when he made the turn he was so close he just impaled the ground.''

Though the case is being treated as an accident, it has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration, Bradley added.

If performed correctly, the manoeuvre brings skydivers in at a high rate of speed but allows for a horizontal glide about one metre off the ground, usually resulting in a soft landing, said Skydive DeLand General Manager Mike Johnston.

''He misjudged his landing,'' he said, also noting that Drapeau appeared to have made the manoeuvre too close to the ground.

A pair of paramedics joined a skydiving doctor in treating Drapeau at the scene. He was flown by helicopter to Halifax Medical Center in nearby Daytona Beach, where he later died, police said.

Just an hour-and-a-half before the fatal fall, a 42-year-old sky diver from Holland suffered a broken ankle after making a hard landing at Skydive DeLand, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported Saturday.

Johnston said Drapeau was a frequent visitor to the popular DeLand skydiving spot, making the trip from Canada almost every winter. Although he didn't teach there, he was accredited to do so and worked for a parachute centre in Quebec, the Journal reported.

Drapeau became the second person to die at Skydive DeLand in four months. Chantal Bonitto, a 31-year-old New Yorker, died Dec. 27 when her parachute failed.

In April 1999, Beatrice Vanderpol, a 55-year-old French woman, also fell to her death because her parachute failed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said Canadian officials are looking into the accident.

''We're in contact with our consulate in Miami and we are trying to find out more,'' Patrick Riel said.

Drapeau's family has been notified and are being offered consular assistance, he said.

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