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Skydivers sue over mid-air crash

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TWO student skydivers who plunged to the ground after a mid-air collision during a training jump are suing the company that was teaching them how to parachute. Christopher Charles Morton, 33, was in hospital for four days and off work for six weeks after the accident, which also involved Michael Richard Warren, 26, at Picton, south of Sydney, on December 14, 1997.

Mr Morton and Mr Warren are suing Sydney Skydivers Pty Ltd in the NSW District Court, claiming the company was negligent by failing to ensure its employees were adequately trained and that it failed to exercise due and proper care for the safety of its students.

Their barrister, Andrew Morrison, SC, told Acting Judge Clifford Boyd-Boland it would be their case that the system for novice skydivers put in place by the company was "thoroughly unsafe".

Mr Morrison said the pair were "some significant distance above the ground" when they collided and fell.

Mr Morton, a master of the Sydney Harbour tall ship Bounty, suffered a fractured pelvis and injuries to his right shoulder, spine, head and severe shock.

Mr Warren, a former coalminer, received fractures to his right arm and injuries to his spine, head and severe shock.

Mr Morton told the court a friend, his girlfriend and he had decided to buy each other skydives for Christmas presents that year.

He said that after a day of training he went up in a plane to do his first jump with several instructors and fellow student Mr Warren, who was then doing his third jump.

They were to aim for a cross marked on the ground and were directed by instructors moving large arrows and using batons to show them which way to turn.

"I thought I was doing really well because I was coming up to the cross," Mr Morton said.

But he said when he was about 30 metres from the ground and while watching his instructor, who was also on the ground, he and Mr Warren collided.

He said his canopy collapsed and he hit the ground.

The company is being sued under the Trade Practices Act, with Mr Morton and Mr Warren alleging the services supplied by the company were not supplied with due care and skill.

The company's barrister, Greg Curtain, told Judge Boyd-Boland there would be evidence Mr Morton and Mr Warren failed to follow instructions to watch the "target assistant" on the ground and that Mr Morton went in the opposite direction to the way he was directed.

Mr Curtain also said there would be evidence that there was nothing wrong with the way the company's operation was carried out.

The hearing is continuing.

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