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Found 205 results

  1. As many as 100 skydivers from across the country will gather in Longmont on Saturday for a commemorative jump and memorial service to honor a colleague who died in a plane crash over the weekend. "It's a special kind of memorial that skydivers do for one of their own," said Gary Sands, brother of Jeffrey Sands. Jeffrey Sands, president of the Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, was a passenger in a Pitts S-2B stunt plane that went down in a hayfield northwest of the city on Saturday. The pilot, 57- year-old Thomas Bullington of Boulder, also was killed. Gary Sands of Golden said Monday that his brother was an adventurous free spirit who logged more than 4,000 jumps since 1984. He was one of 300 skydivers to set a world record with a simultaneous formation jump in December. "Jeff was a thrill-seeker," Gary Sands said. "He lived life at full throttle. He loved the adrenaline rush, but in spite of that he was known as the consummate perfectionist." Sands, 49, had to work hard to get his skydiving school off the ground, but his perseverance built it into one of the best, his brother said. He was a safe, able instructor who introduced many to the sport. Jeff Sands also was known for his annual landing at Folsom Field during the Bolder Boulder race. After much practice with weights and tests, he perfected a method of carrying a giant American flag in by parachute, his brother said. Sands is survived by his mother, two older brothers and a sister. He was not married and had no children. "He was married to skydiving and flying," Gary Sands said. "He went the way he would have wanted to go, doing something that he loved." ~ Special to The Denver Post
  2. A 28-year-old serviceman has died during a parachute jump at an airbase in Oxfordshire. The victim was taking part in a recreational jump with the RAF's Sports Parachuting Association at RAF Weston-on-the Green. Police and ambulance crews were called to the scene at around 1230 BST on Friday. The identity of the man and the cause of the accident have yet to be released. The incident was the second parachuting accident in the area this week. A man, aged about 60, died after suffering multiple injuries in a skydiving accident on Wednesday morning. It is thought his parachute failed to open when he made a jump at Northamptonshire's Hinton airfield near Brackley, near the Oxfordshire border. He was taken by air ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where he later died. The British Parachute Association and Northamptonshire Police are investigating the incident.
  3. admin

    3 Skydivers Injured Before NASCAR Race

    ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Three Army skydivers were injured Sunday when strong wind knocked them to the ground before a NASCAR race. A group of eight jumpers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute team from Fort Bragg came sailing into the track area, trailing red smoke as part of the pre-race activities for the Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway. With wind up to 40 mph, one jumper was carried away from his targeted landing on the track and into the infield, where he appeared to bounce off the top of a tractor-trailer before landing on the ground, his chute caught on the antenna of a van. He was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and was in good condition, a nursing administrator said. The hospital did not provide the soldier's name. Messages for spokesmen with the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg were not immediately returned. Another jumper sailed into the garage area and bounced off the top of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s hauler. He landed between race team trucks and a fence. That jumper, as well as a third who landed hard on the asphalt of the track, were taken to Womack Army Hospital in Fayetteville for treatment of minor injuries. The hospital did not immediately return calls. Track personnel did not immediately have their names or any other information about the injured soldiers. At least two jumpers nailed their landings on the front stretch of the race track. Another skydiver never made it to the track, landing outside the Turn 1 grandstands. ~ Associated Press
  4. Seven people, including the pilot, escaped with relatively minor injuries when a Britten-Norman BNA2 twin engine Islander belonging to Skydive Thailand crashed in a cassava field outside Pattaya Airport opposite the Phoenix Golf Club at about 1 p.m. on Tuesday, January 14. This Britten-Norman BNA2 (twin engine) Islander crashed shortly after takeoff in a cassava field outside Pattaya Airfield near Phoenix Golf Club. Seven people, including the pilot, escaped with minor injuries. Pol. Lt Col Somchai Yodsombat from the Banglamung police station reported that the plane was nearly broken in half, with one of the engines from the left side almost protruding into the cabin. Pieces of wreckage were scattered around the area with the front of the plane and cockpit crushed from the impact. The crash occurred in the Chatngaew area of Huay Yai District. The pilot and the passengers were taken to the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital by members of the local community. Pattaya resident Patrick van den Berghe, aka Flying Frog, wasn't flying on Tuesday when he was wheeled out of the hospital. Patrick was all smiles, however, as he escaped with minor injuries. The aircraft belonged to Skydive Thailand, which takes passengers for skydiving. The plane had an 8-seat capacity. At approximately 1 p.m. the plane took off from Pattaya Airport and had been airborne for 2 minutes. Flying in the area of Chatngaew, approximately 1.5 kilometers from the airport, the aircraft ran into difficulties and one of the engines cut out, causing the pilot to initiate a crash landing. Manote Sukjaroen, a resident in the Huay Yai area said that just prior to the crash they had heard the sound of the plane take off from the airport as per normal, as there are usually around 3 trips per day. This was to be the second run of the day, but approximately 2 minutes after takeoff they heard one of the engines cut out. Shortly after, a loud crash brought residents running out to investigate. Ms. Lorna Martin was banged up but otherwise ok after her scary ordeal. Reporters also visited the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, where the injured were taken for treatment. Fortunately the seven people, including the pilot escaped serious injury and only had relatively minor cut and bruises. The list of injured include the pilot, Asadawut Srirunsun, Patrick Van den Berghe (aka Flying Frog), Steve Bavington, Jukka Holtinen, Paul Moran, Paul Dinessen and Ms. Lorna Martin. All were treated for cuts and abrasions and released from hospital. At press time, the initial reports suggest engine failure; however, commercial aviation inspectors are investigating the cause of the crash. Police, aviation inspectors and the owners of the aircraft inspect the site of the crash. Luckily, all 7 on board, including the pilot, escaped with relatively minor injuries. Despite such incidents, flying is still much safer than driving on the road, particularly in Thailand.
  5. admin

    Shannon Embry

    At 5:30 pm on Monday, October 14th, Shannon Embry died while making a skydive. Shannon, 40 years of age, was an experienced skydiver from Tennessee. She was participating in the Women's World Record attempt, "Jump for the Cause", a breast cancer fundraiser. On an otherwise uneventful skydive, Shannon Embry suffered mortal injuries during or shortly after deployment of her main canopy. Shannon was an exemplary tracker, and it is possible that deployment of her main canopy while still in forward motion could have incapacitated her or perhaps even ended her life. While the main canopy was 100% undamaged, she made no attempt to release the brakes or stow the slider, and continued in a steady weight shift turn until impact. She had trained medical personnel (fellow skydivers) with her within seconds of landing, but could not be resuscitated. She was a mother, a mate, our sister in the sky, a lover, a skydiver, a woman and our friend. She will be missed. Jump for the Cause
  6. admin

    C-182 Crash: A First Jump Story

    All was going well last Saturday, September 28. It was a pretty day in Beaver Oaks, Oregon, and Skydive Inc. had put up about 12 loads. There had been no previous incidents, but we all know that things can change rapidly. And on that load, they did. Rick Liston, Craig Wilwers, John Allen, and Chris Lattig were planning on launching a casual 4-way from the private DZ's C-182. All had been jumping together for a while, and all were very familiar with the dz. The pilot, Travis Marshall, was known to be a competent pilot, and very interested in ferrying jumpers. Marshall had sat through many weekends watching first jump courses taught by Ralph Hatley, the S&TA; of the dz, and always wore a bail-out rig. All participants were comfortable, and ready to make this last jump of the day a fun and memorable one...and, to top it off, there was a birthday party being readied on the ground for Rick Liston. Reaching jumprun at an altitude of 10,500 feet, the jumpers knelt, moved forward, and arranged themselves at the door. The first jumper positioned himself, and Rick Liston moved to his position between the door and the strut with his back to the prop, sort of sitting on the strut with one foot on the step (the position is often referred to as the "crotch" position). The third jumper began moving into his position. No-one was dreaming, and yet, the nightmare was about to unfold. According to Hatley, that was when Liston noticed his D-bag on the floor between his legs. He tried to recover the bag, but the lines began unstowing, wrapping around the strut. The lines snaked over the front of the strut, and they were wrapping around the gear leg when Liston released his main canopy and fell away from the plane. As he cut away, the canopy escaped from the bag, and part of it caught on the step, with the rest catching and snarling on the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. One of the jumpers grabbed his hookknife, and tried to cut the canopy away from the plane, but lost his grip on the knife and it went out the door. Liston deployed his reserve uneventfully. The other jumpers all followed suit and left the disabled plane, and, as they still had plenty of altitude, did not use their reserves but opened their mains. They all landed uneventfully at the dz. But that's not the whole story. The rest of the story began when the jumpers left the plane, and the pilot was alone in a damaged and uncontrollable aircraft. Travis Marshall had successfully struggled to maintain control of the plane to allow the jumpers time to exit safely. But he had never jumped before, and he knew he had to do it this time. As the jumpers left the plane and deployed, Marshall began to lose what little control he had of the C-182. The plane inverted, and went into a flat spin, pinning Marshall to his seat. Unfazed, Marshall shut down the plane, and notified air traffic control that he had an emergency. He then activated the transponders, climbed out of the pilot's seat, and, while the plane was still upside down and spinning, somehow managed to climb out onto the wing of the plane. Holding on to the wing, he clearly heard Hatley screaming "ARCH!!" in his head. So, as Marshall let go of the wing, he did the only thing he could do...he arched. Hard. Upon leaving the plane at about 6,000 feet, Marshall fell a short distance, and then reached for the ripcord and deployed a round canopy. Trying desperately to remember how to manage the canopy ride, he was able to steer towards a clearing about a mile away from the dz. As he approached the ground, he got ready to plf as he had only watched people doing. But he must have seen enough of them, because he plf'ed, and stood up with nothing worse than a few bruises to show for his first jump. He gathered up his gear, and began the walk back to the dz. During his walk back, he met Hatley in the truck. As Marshall climbed in, Hatley recalls, Marshall's first comments were "that was a hard opening", and "man, I threw the ripcord away." Hatley laughs as he recounts this, glee and disbelief in his voice that those were the concerns Marshall had. "Can you imagine? That's what he was worried about. Losing the ripcord!". "Everyone was fine" states Hatley. "Every last one of them performed exactly as they had trained to do. I always tell my students and jumpers to identify the problem, react to the problem, and don't procrastinate. These men - well, that's exactly what they did. And they all walked away." When asked if there was anything wrong with the aircraft, per the Oregon State Police's press release, he emphatically rejected that idea. "Nothing wrong with the plane, nothing wrong with the parachute. The FAA has already cleared the rig Liston was wearing, and the plane was in fine working order. It got a parachute wrapped around the strut and the tail. That's enough to cause the crash! Everyone kept their heads and no one even got hurt. That's the important part. No one even got hurt." Hatley continued, "the jumpers had gear checks before getting on the plane, and Liston's pilot chute was still in it's pocket when he first saw the D-bag. The only thing we can figure is the pin got knocked loose somehow. C-182's are crowded with 4 jumpers and a pilot. The pin was checked, and it was fine. The rig was checked, and it was fine. All we can figure is it (the pin) got knocked loose somehow. Sometimes, stuff happens. This was one of those times". Hatley was gracious with his time, and thanked Dropzone.com for trying to get the story out to the jumpers. "While the mainstream media has been very good, and not sensationalizing this, it's also complicated for non-jumpers to understand how something like this can happen." Hatley concluded with this comment: "remember that when something happens, it happens fast. Identify, react, and don't procrastinate taking action to save yourself. And have safe jumps!"
  7. admin

    Two Killed in TV Tower Collapse

    HEMINGFORD, Neb. (AP) — A 1,965-foot-high TV tower collapsed, killing two workers who were trying to strengthen the structure, which had been taller than the Empire State Building. Three other workers were injured Tuesday, rescue officials said. The cause of the collapse was being investigated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Two of the workers were repairing the roof to a small transmission building at the base of the tower. The three others had been hired to strengthen the tower so it could be equipped for high-definition television transmission, according to the owner, Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises of Rapid City, S.D. "I happened to glance up and saw the tower toppling over. It looked like the center section kind of leaned out first and the top fell down", said Don Jespersen, a 46-year-old farmer who was working in his field about a half mile away. Jerry Dishong, station manager for ABC affiliate KDUH in Scottsbluff, said there was no apparent reason for the collapse, citing clear and calm weather. After the accident, the station could only be viewed by cable subscribers. Killed were Lawrence A. Sukalec, 59, of Valier, Ill., and Daniel E. Goff, 25, of Sesser, Ill. They were on the tower when it collapsed, according to the Box Butte County sheriff's office. Three other workers were taken to a hospital in Alliance. Two were treated and released and the third was listed in good condition. The tower, about 20 miles northwest of Alliance, had been the tallest structure in Nebraska and one of the world's highest. It was more than 500 feet taller than the Sears Tower in Chicago and 700 feet higher than the Empire State Building in New York City. In 1998, eight skydivers from Utah were arrested for trespassing after jumping from the top of the tower. They left a black flag at its top to show they had made it to what they deemed their "holy grail."
  8. admin

    Skydiving Plane Crashes near Estacada

    Beaver Oaks, Oregon - A team of skydivers leaped from a crippled airplane Saturday, moments before it crashed into a stand of trees near Estacada. The four trick-parachute jumpers aboard and the pilot survived without injuries. Their small Cessna C-182 crumpled into trees near Highway 224 and burned before Estacada firefighters arrived. The plane was flying at 10,500 feet over the “drop zone” for the parachutists. Investigators believe the second jumper’s parachute opened early as he jumped, wrapping around the plane’s tail. The plane then began to drop as the pilot lost control. The jumper, Rick A. Liston, 46, of Clackamas, cut himself free and used his secondary parachute to escape. The other skydivers – Craig N. Wilwers, 50, of Portland; John C. Allen, 49, of Tillamook; and Chris I. Lattig, 42, of Tualatin – then bailed out. The pilot, Travis William Marshall, 23, of West Linn, followed. The plane crashed shortly before 7 p.m., about 200 feet from Highway 224. Nobody else was hurt. The plane belongs to an Eagle Creek man and had left a private airfield at Beaver Oaks. The Oregon State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating. The state Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the cleanup of a small amount of fuel that spilled into a nearby pond.
  9. admin

    11 killed in Russian plane crash

    MOSCOW: A small plane carrying a group of skydivers crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport in a remote part of Siberia on Saturday September 14, killing 11 people on board, an official said. The AN-2 plane went down about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the runway in the village of Shalinskoye, in the Krasnoyarsk region, about 3,400 kilometres (2,100 miles) east of Moscow, said Gennady Savelyev, a duty officer at the Siberian emergency situations department. The plane was carrying 11 skydivers and 3 crew members. Of those on board, 10 were found dead at the crash site, and one died in the hospital. Three more are listed in critical condition. Savelyev said a preliminary investigation points to engine failure as the cause of the crash.
  10. admin

    Marijuana in skydiver's system

    A skydiving instructor who died in July while attempting to land on a pond at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa was seriously impaired by smoking marijuana within two hours of his death, according to a toxicology report released Wednesday. The report was made public an at inquest conducted by LaSalle County Coroner Jody Bernard into the death of Ronald Passmore Jr., 33, who died July 14 when he slammed chest first into the pond at the jump zone and died of a severed aorta. A coroner's jury declared the death accidental. Passmore's death was the sixth in a year at Skydive Chicago, a fatality rate eight times higher than the national average. He was the second instructor to die there this year and the second fatality since July 2001 in which drugs were found in the victim's system. The toxicology report, prepared by St. Louis University Hospital laboratory officials, showed Passmore's blood had a cannabis level about double that at which a person is considered impaired, according to laboratory director Dr. Christopher Long. "This (level in Passmore's blood) demonstrates relatively acute smoking within the last couple of hours before his death," said Long. This is serious impairment due to marijuana--cannabis--that would affect everything you could possibly use to skydive, particularly reaction time and depth perception." Efforts to reach Roger Nelson, operator of the Skydive Chicago, and Chris Needels, head of the U.S. Parachute Association, were unsuccessful. Needels was present at the jump zone for a USPA board of directors meeting on the day that Passmore and two other skydivers jumped from a plane with high-performance parachutes to perform a landing known as "pond swooping." The landing is a difficult maneuver in which a skydiver skims across the water, much like a water-skier, and then walks ashore. On that day, word had been passed that the three planned to swoop the tiny swimming pond at the dive zone and a small crowd had gathered. According to one observer, the first skydiver managed the maneuver successfully, but the second stalled into the water. Passmore was the final diver and as he came in, he made a sharp hook turn and pancaked onto the water, severing his aorta and causing numerous other internal injuries, according to the autopsy report. After Passmore's death, Nelson said he banned pond swooping at the jump zone. Passmore, a veteran of more than 1,300 jumps, had been living at the campground that is part of the Skydive Chicago compound and was working as an instructor for Nelson. Instructors are paid a fee, usually about $25, to accompany students who are taking up the sport. Skydive Chicago is one of the busiest drop zones in the Midwest with about 75,000 jumps a year. On May 18, John Faulkner, 28, also an instructor at the jump zone who was living at the campground, collided in the air with another jumper, rendering him unconscious. His backup chute failed despite being equipped with a device to open it automatically. No drugs or alcohol were detected in his system. On Oct. 18, 2001, Bruce Greig, of Jacksonville, Ill., died when his chute became entangled and he went into a spin. His emergency chute deployed too close to the ground and he died of chest injuries. A toxicology report was positive for cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy.
  11. WHITEWRIGHT -- Two sky divers killed when their parachutes became intertwined in a twilight jump over Northeast Texas were veteran jumpers with more than 200 jumps each to their credit, officials with their skydiving club said today. Brad Walk of Dallas and Jason Fitzsimmons of Richardson were killed when their parachutes became entangled about 6,000 feet above the ground in the accident Saturday, according to a statement issued by Skydive Dallas. The accident happened about 50 miles northeast of Dallas near the Fannin-Grayson county line. The two jumped from a Cessna Caravan at about 13,500 feet and their parachutes appeared to open normally at 11,000 feet, the club statement said. However, as they arranged their equipment, they drifted together and got their shrouds tangled at about 6,000 feet, the club said. Both apparently were killed on impact with the ground, officials said. The statement said neither sky diver appeared to use their reserve chutes. "They were really well-liked in the skydiving community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and loved ones," said Joe Rekart, the general manager of the Whitewright-based club.
  12. OTTAWA, Ill. - Authorities were investigating a death involving an Illinois skydiving club Monday after a 33-year-old Indiana man was killed over the weekend in the sixth fatal accident at the club in a little more than a year. Ronald Passmore Jr. of Butler, Ind., was jumping with Skydive Chicago on Sunday afternoon when he tried to land in a pond but struck the water too hard, LaSalle County Coroner Jody Bernard said. Several people pulled Passmore from the water, and he was taken to Ottawa Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The accident happened near Ottawa, which is about 70 miles southwest of Chicago. "His parachute was fully deployed; it was just a matter of a hard landing," Bernard said. She said Passmore was an expert skydiver who had made frequent jumps with Skydive Chicago. An autopsy was to be performed Monday including toxicology tests that will determine if Passmore had drugs or alcohol in his system. Results from those tests will be available in four to six weeks, Bernard said. The LaSalle County Sheriff's Department was investigating the death, the sixth fatality at Skydive Chicago since July 9, 2001. The last one occurred May 18 when 28-year-old Skydive Chicago instructor John Faulkner plunged to his death after his parachute failed to open. Sheriff Tom Templeton said interviews would be conducted with witnesses and other participants in the dive, and the Federal Aviation Administration would check Passmore's equipment. He said investigations into other deaths at Skydive Chicago turned up no criminal activity and were all ruled accidents. "I guess it's the peril of the sport," Templeton said. "It's an inherently dangerous sport." LaSalle County State's Attorney Joe Hettel echoed Templeton, adding that he found the deaths "disconcerting." "This is literally happening right outside my window. I see people jumping all the time," he said. "It's frustrating to have these things happening. ... (But) absent some changes in law there's nothing that can be done by law enforcement." Bernard said she wasn't alarmed by the string of recent deaths. The club is one of the nation's largest skydiving operations, with about 75,000 jumps a year. "I think you have to put it into perspective," Bernard said. "The percentages are actually very low when you put it all together." Skydive Chicago owner Roger Nelson did not return calls for comment Monday. The sport's sanctioning body, the U.S. Parachute Association, normally inquires about deaths and can withdraw its sanction of clubs and schools. The group's executive director was returning from a board meeting held over the weekend at Skydive Chicago and was unavailable to comment Monday. ~ Associated Press Incidents Forum
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    Parachutist caught in storm

    A skydiver who was sucked into a thundercloud and landed unscathed has picked up the nickname "Little Miracle." Montreal student Mathieu Gagnon walked out of the Ottawa Hospital Monday morning, laughing at jokes and promising to leap out of an airplane again soon. Except for sore muscles, the 21-year-old was unharmed from a bizarre accident Sunday. "This is something that we will be talking about in the skydiving world for the rest of our lives," said Martin Audit, president of Paramax, a Gatineau, Que., skydiving company. "He was in the black cloud with the lightning and everything," said Julie Desjardins, a Paramax employee who tracked the near-disaster from the ground. "He's a very lucky guy." But Gagnon, a skydiver with 20 other jumps under his belt, has refused to talk about the accident for fear it will give people the wrong impression of his sport. On Sunday afternoon, he was one of five experienced parachutists on board Paramax's Cessna 182 as it climbed above the Gatineau Airport. Each had signed a waiver and paid $32 for the jump. Thunderstorm warnings had been issued for the region but local conditions seemed safe, Desjardins said. "We do not let them jump if there's a storm coming in. The tower will say: 'No, stop. Land with the plane.' The pilot will say the same also." The go-ahead came because southerly winds were moving torrential rains and high winds in the opposite direction, Desjardins said. "The storm was about four kilometres away. It just suddenly turned, and it was amazing. I had never seen that in my life. Ever." Just before 5 p.m., the five men leapt out of the small plane about 2,000 metres above the ground. Within a minute, the winds had shifted, sending dark clouds hurtling toward the jumpers. The skydivers knew they were in trouble. But Gagnon, who had been the first to open his parachute, was a few hundred metres above the others. He was the only one sucked into a black cloud. From the ground, Audit watched in panic as Gagnon disappeared. For five minutes, Gagnon was missing. He later told Audit that he was trapped in a black fog, hurtling upwards. Gagnon checked his altimeter -- he had climbed 1,000 metres. He cut away his main parachute and tumbled toward the ground until he was out of the clouds. Then Gagnon opened his reserve parachute and drifted helplessly. About 15 minutes later, he landed on the south side of the Ottawa River, in Orleans, Ont., about 25 kilometres south of the airfield where he was supposed to touch down. He ended up on a road a few kilometres from the river, and was jarred when his chute snagged on a parked car, Desjardins said. Area resident Ronald Wright heard a crash and found Gagnon in his driveway, alert but unable to talk. Back in Quebec, the four other parachuters had already landed -- all but one a few kilometres away from the landing spot near the airport. One man broke both his legs. "It was the worst experience of their lives," Audit said. "When the big wind catches you, you don't know if you are going to survive. They were crying when they landed on the ground -- they were that happy to be alive." ~ Patti Edgar for the Edmonton Journal Mathieu's story in his own words.. I thought about giving my own version of what happened that Sunday June 23rd 2002, since it happened to me. I think sharing this experience with other skydivers is good for the community's knowledge. On my side, a great part of my actions were inspired by stories, facts and tricks that I had heard. First, I am a novice, this jump was my 24th - the 5th of my current season. I was then testing equipment that I just bought (Hurricane 220, Racer, Phantom 24, no AAD). Upon takeoff, the weather was acceptable, the wind was calm, the ceiling was at about 7000ft. I was the last to exit, since I was opening at 4000' - to test my equipment. Already upon opening, the problems began : line twists and one line had also broken. My canopy was still manoeuvrable. I was heading slowly for the dropzone when I noticed the wind changed its direction, and was getting stronger and stronger. I was at 3000' at that moment. Suddenly I was in a big grey cloud, for I very well knew that there were no clouds under or around me… I checked my altitude: I was now at 6000ft… and all this happened in less than 30 seconds! In the cloud, the wind was very strong and it was coming from every direction. I tried to pull on my front risers to loose some altitude, but a canopy of 220sq.ft. in such conditions overwhelmed me - when I succeeded in lowering them slightly, the wind was gaining the control back on it very brutally, and I was scared that my canopy would not resist such strong gusts. The idea of cutting away came to me at that moment (I had already heard a similar story). I looked at both my handles, took a deep breath and pulled the cut-away. That was my first cut-away and I must admit that the feeling of falling from the canopy is something special. I pulled the reserve at about 3000', which I consider a mistake in its own. I was out of the grey cloud, but I was still quite high, and not going down - but nevertheless I was not going up either! I was still unable to pull of the front risers with my arms because of the strong wind. Then it occurred to me to use my legs in order to lower the front risers. The wind was too strong, and my 145lbs was not sufficient to pull both risers at the same time. But with all my weight pulling on 2-3 lines at the front, I was able to loose little altitude at a time. This was hard and long work, very eventful. I succeeded in getting as low as 1000ft. Still, I consider it an error to have opened my reserve at 3000ft, this is probably what allowed me to cross the "Outaouais River", which is by the way a very large river. In the last 1000 feet I was falling much faster. I was not able to orient my round canopy, neither to brake; so I made a hard landing. I had landed on my feet, but I fell on my back afterward, my canopy got hooked on a car parked not very far from where I landed). After that, people from the home I landed on came to my help and called an ambulance. I was in pretty bad shape at that moment, but I got away with some cracked ribs and a back sprain. Later on, people told me I landed between 20 to 25 km (12-16 miles) from the dropzone, and that was in the sky for 25 to 30 minutes. Mathieu Atze Gagnon June 25th 2002 Now you may ask yourself this question: what would I have done? There were 5 other jumpers on that load. Only one made the dropzone, the other three landed about a kilometer away. One of them broke both his legs (he cut away his main to avoid being dragged by the strong wind and to not aggravate his wounds). Other fact, the police department of Ottawa found the canopy on June 26th 2002. Where exactly and in what condition; we don't yet know. Translated from Mathieu's testimonial on the www.freefly.ca web site, by Louis Allard.
  14. Just wanted to show you guys a video that I took this Saturday (15 June 2002). I am sure that you have heard about the fires here near Denver. We were jumping at Longmont, just north of Denver, my home DZ. There were slurry bombers flying over the center of the airport, at 3000' agl, despite several calls to the US Forestry Service. View the Video The tankers were not listening to the airport frequency, looking at the sectional charts that indicated that Longmont had parachute activity and didn't talk to Denver Center or Approach. The DZ was operating strictly according to USPA guidelines. The jump plane pilot tried to contact the pilots of the slurry bombers on several frequencies, to no avail. End result - after a great head-down jump with a friend of mine, we broke off at ~6000', and I planned on falling until about 2500', and then pull. At 3000', I heard a plane fly under me from the north, and I fell in between the vertical stabilizer and elevator. Notice the tail fly under me in the video. Peter Konrad
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    Blue Skies, Johnny "Velocity"

    On a chilly but otherwise beautiful May day, we lost a brother to a freefall collision and subsequent no-pull. John Faulkner (known to many as "Johnny Velocity" or "Johnny Wood"), an avid jumper and tandem instructor with over 1,000 jumps, died on Saturday, May 18 at Skydive Chicago during a two-way freefly jump with Jeff Brown. John, an experienced freeflyer, had been doing tandems for most of the day, and this was thought to be his first non-instructional jump of the day. The plan was for the two to go head-down on exit and for Jeff, who has about 35 jumps, to try to maintain stability and proximity with John. "We got a lot of vertical separation early in the dive (I was low)," said Jeff. "We'd agreed that if I didn't get a good head down, I'd sitfly. I saw him orbit me once while I tried to get into a good head down, and then I decided to go into a sit. "I believe that he tried to catch up with me (from above) after that, and I think I had gotten into a sit when something hit me from behind and on my right side. My right arm went numb and my knee hurt, and I didn't know at first what it was. As I pulled I saw him falling away from me on his back with his arms over his chest. I believe he was knocked unconscious when it happened." John was wearing an open-face hard helmet, had an audible altimeter, and his rig had a Cypres automatic activation device that either was turned off, had cycled off, or malfunctioned, as it did not fire. SSK Industries will test the unit to determine which was the case. Blue skies, Johnny--you'll be missed. Note: This information is from a witness report. The results of the investigation will be released in Parachutist at a later date. Team Funnel (a loose organization of skydivers at Skydive Chicago dedicated to the belief that no one should have to jump alone) sponsored a fundraiser in the names of Johnny and other skydivers who have passed away (for the Make-A-Wish Foundation) on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26. Their goal was $4,600--the average cost of this foundation's fulfilling someone's wish--and the total raised was over $5,400.
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    Two die as skydiver hits glider

    Two people fell to their deaths after a freak mid-air collision when a skydiver smashed through the wing of a glider. The glider's pilot also died in the collision at around 2,000ft, which happened at Hinton Airfield, near Brackley, Northants, at about 1500 BST on Saturday. The wing of the glider was knocked off by the force of the impact and both people were killed instantly, a spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigations Branch said. A Northamptonshire police spokesman said the glider came down in a field close to the private airfield. Investigation launched Among the first to arrive at the scene was a crew from Two Shires Ambulance Service who confirmed the deaths. A spokesman said: "We arrived to find a parachutist was deceased and the glider pilot also deceased. "There were no other casualties." An AAIB spokesman said few details of the accident were available but confirmed the tragedy. "A parachutist flew into the glider knocking off its wing," he said. "There are two fatalities ... the pilot and the parachutist." Investigators are due to attend the scene to establish in greater detail how the accident happened - they will be assisted by the Parachute Association. Staff at Hinton Skydiving Centre, which is based at the airfield, were unable to comment as the incident is being investigated. ~ BBC
  17. BITHLO -- Carrying parachutes, the three men hopped the fence surrounding the television tower in rural east Orange County early Thursday and rode the elevator 1,682 feet to the top. Then, simultaneously, they jumped from the steel girders to the fog-shrouded cow pasture below. At six seconds, the first chute opened. The second chute opened two seconds later. But Timothy Lee Werling II, who friends told police was addicted to danger, waited a fatal 11 seconds before pulling the cord and plunged to his death at 172 feet per second. As Werling, 30, fell, the video camera strapped to his helmet recorded his final jump. "If he had even pulled it at 10 seconds, he probably would have survived," Orange County Sheriff's Detective Rick Lallement said. Two other men took part in the pre-dawn adventure -- one jumping from a lower platform 1,000 feet from the ground and the other deciding at the last moment not to jump. Werling, who moved to DeLand recently from Ohio, was known as "Sky Punk" for his daring exploits. He had made 600 jumps off towers, cliffs and bridges as part of the extreme sport known as BASE jumping. "When you have a son that lives for the adrenaline of BASE jumping, you sort of expect it," Timothy Werling, 57, said in a telephone interview Thursday from his home in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester, shortly after learning of his son's death. ". . . He died doing the thing he loved." The cluster of television masts near Bithlo has become popular with BASE jumpers -- an acronym for buildings, antennae, spans and earth. Mountain Dew even filmed a television commercial for the soft drink, showing jumpers leaping from one of the towers. Werling's friends told Lallement that he was the kind of jumper who pushed his jumps to the limit. "They're cocky," Lallement said. "They're big-time thrill seekers. Jumping out of an airplane isn't enough." One of the group called 911 shortly after 7 a.m. to report Werling's death. Werling apparently died an hour earlier. "He's dead," the caller told the emergency operator. "Impact injuries. High speed to the ground." Police said that Werling's friends, whom they did not identify, went some distance to a pay phone at a convenience store to make the call reporting his death. By all accounts, Werling was an experienced sky diver and BASE jumper. Investigators at the scene found a picture of Werling at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. That spot is so popular it is closed annually so jumpers can use it exclusively. Passion for jumping Werling apparently moved to Central Florida to indulge in his passion for jumping year-round. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in north DeLand, where his landlady remembered him as a "well-spirited" person. He worked as an administrative assistant at Skydive DeLand, a popular sky-diving operation. "I'm very sad," said Mike Johnston, Skydive DeLand's general manager. "He was pretty exuberant and passionate about life." To veteran parachutists, BASE jumping is a perilous version of their sport but draws many seasoned sky divers because of its daredevil stunts and increased rush from jumping at lower altitudes. "It's popular. I've never made a BASE jump," said Brian Erler, a sky-diving cameraman who works at Skydive Space Center in Titusville. "Depending on the altitude, it's total acceleration. I'm sure it's pretty intense." Unlike skydiving, where parachutes open at 2,500 feet after sky divers jump from airplanes at 15,000 feet, BASE jumpers leap from lower heights and have far less time to open their parachutes. Seconds to spare A few seconds is all BASE jumpers have, but skydivers can have more than a minute before pulling open their parachutes. Unofficial counts put the number of BASE-jumping deaths worldwide at 40. There are an estimated 10,000 active BASE jumpers. Because the sport sometimes requires its participants to trespass on private property, jumpers often avoid authorities. "This is a big organization that does this stuff," sheriff's spokesman Carlos Torres said. "It's a common sport. But in Orange County, this is the first documented [BASE-jumping death] we have had." That is not to say jumpers have been avoiding the area. Lallement said the Sheriff's Office had spotted at least eight jumpers in the area on three separate occasions during the past few months. John Stargel, vice president and general counsel for Tampa-based Richland Towers Inc., the parent company for the tower, said the company will review its policies in the wake of the incident. "The tower is fenced. We have security in place," Stargel said. "But if someone is intent on breaching our security, there's only so much you can do to keep somebody from putting themselves in harm's way." Lallement had little tolerance for the BASE jumpers who trespass to get to their jump-off points. In this case, the jumpers violated federal law because the location is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. ~ Orlando Sentinel
  18. Experienced skydiver Tony Weber, died Memorial Day weekend from injuries sustained from a hard landing at Cedartown Georgia, Atlanta Skydiving Center. During a holiday road trip with friends, to celebrate college graduation, Tony made a hard landing under a relatively new Vengence 150, at the DZ. He was airlifted off the DZ and died of his injuries 4 hours later. Tony was a regular jumper at SEMO Skydiving. He was the president of the SIU Skydiving Club. He was a great role model for the new jumpers, and a positive influence on skydiving in general. He was working on his instructional rating and would have been an asset to our club, or any skydiving operation. He was a really good guy. His parents moniter the NG if you would like to make a positive comment. I have the address of his parents if anyone would like to send a card. We are all saddened by his loss, and will miss him. He died doing what he loved best...skydiving. Paul Gholson SEMO Skydiving D-17101 instructor
  19. SUFFOLK, Va. May 11 — A former Navy SEAL and skydiving instructor died after he hit his head on a plane during a jump and fell to the ground without his parachute deployed. Brad Foster, 42, of Virginia Beach, was one of 14 parachutists practicing for a show this weekend when he jumped from the plane Friday, officials said. Foster, who had more than 4,000 jumps to his credit, likely died upon impact with the plane, fire Capt. James Judkins Jr. said. Foster's body was found in the back yard of a house about a quarter-mile from Suffolk Municipal Airport, where the flight originated.
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    Spectator hurt in demonstration jump

    Gloucester, UK - DENISE Peacock was enjoying what seemed to be a perfect day out in the sunshine with her family - but seconds later a freak accident left her lucky to be alive. The 36-year-old, from Coney Hill, was at a bumper May Day celebration in Gloucester watching a parachuting display when she heard a noise above her head. Before the mother-of-two knew what was happening, she lay writhing in agony on the ground after one of the parachutists lost control in heavy winds, sailed out of the arena, and careered straight into her and her young family. Today the Church Way resident is on crutches and off work - but she knows she's lucky not to have been more seriously hurt. The vending machine operator suffered tissue damage and severe bruising to her legs, while husband Lawrence, 37, and children Amy, 12, and Sean, eight, all sustained cuts and bruises. The parachutist is believed to have broken his leg, and remains in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital today. Ambulances rushed Denise and the parachutist, from the volunteer Falling Rocks parachute team, to the hospital. She was released after eight hours of treatment. He will remain in hospital for at least another week. The family were at Coney Hill Neighbourhood Project's May Day celebrations at Coney Hill Primary School on Bank Holiday Monday when the accident happened. The three-strong volunteer parachute team's performance, which took place at 2.15pm, was meant to be the highlight of the bumper event. "The winds were so strong we thought they wouldn't jump," said Denise. "They took off about 20 minutes late, and they were all over the place. "I don't have a clue how it happened, it was all so fast. "People said the parachutist shouted for me to watch out, but I didn't hear anything. "All I remember is lying on the ground in agony after he smashed into me, hitting the back of my legs. "I was rushed to hospital. I've got a huge lump on one of my legs and I'm told I sustained tissue damage in the other, so I'm stuck on crutches and I can't go to work. "The parachutist is in hospital at the moment - he's badly hurt. It was a nightmare." Parachutist Colin Laker, who landed safely just before his out-of-control colleague, denied the winds were too strong to take the jump - but he admitted he probably got caught in an unexpected gust. "It just happens once in a blue moon. We have to put it down to a tragic accident, I'm afraid," he said. "The wind was most definitely not too strong to take the jump. It was very comfortable for us and there was no question of us not doing it. "I understand the parachutist concerned landed beside the woman, and rolled over onto her - it was his momentum that caught her. "He must have been caught in a gust of wind when he was up there, and was knocked out of control. I can only apologise and put it down to a freak accident." Mr Laker said the parachutist did not wish to be identified. Denise claimed she never received an apology from anyone at Coney Hill Neighbourhood Project, who organised the event. But project spokeswoman Val O'Connor claimed it was not their responsibility. "We contracted the Falling Rocks team to do a piece of work for us - and the decision to do the jump was taken by them and them only," she said.
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    Skydiver Called A Hero

    ELLINGTON -- As she hurtled toward the ground, the skydiver couldn't open her parachute. Her instructor, Robert J. Bonadies, dove toward her and pulled her cord. But some say it was too late for him to help himself. Bonadies died Monday in the skydiving accident. The student and another instructor who jumped at the same time were not injured. "Most people would say he was a hero," Don Semon, a safety and training adviser for the United States Parachute Association, said Tuesday. Bonadies' death was ruled an accident Tuesday after an autopsy at the chief medical examiner's office. State police and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating. Family members and friends gathered at Bonadies home Tuesday, sharing memories and calling him a hero. "His smile was contagious," said friend Bill Beaudreau. "He just made you feel good just being around him. I could just see him right to the end, putting his life aside to make sure this person lived, and that's what he did." An electrician, Bonadies, 47, was also a father and grandfather. He had what one relative called "an infectious smile." When it came to skydiving, he was as experienced as they come. He was president of Connecticut Parachutists Inc., a club based at Ellington Airport - about 6 miles from his Vernon house. He had been skydiving for more than 20 years. He completed 2,040 free-fall jumps - 254 in the past 10 months. He also was a long-distance runner. He ran up Mount Washington and trained participants for charity events. "He was a pretty active guy," said his brother-in-law, Mark Miller. "He loved his family. He loved his work. He loved to skydive." That much is evident in a photograph of Bonadies skydiving. In it, he is smiling as he sails through the bright blue sky with a student harnessed beneath him. Bonadies' relatives and friends at Connecticut Parachutists said he saved the student's life Monday. Semon, who also is a member of the club, said Bonadies and another instructor were on either side of the student when they jumped at 12,000 feet from a Cessna 182. When he saw that the student couldn't pull the handle to open her parachute, he did it for her, Semon said. Mark Miller said Bonadies dove through the air to catch up with her. "He maneuvered himself under her. He pulled her cord so her chute opened. He pulled his reserve chute. But he was too close to the ground," Miller said. Semon, however, said Bonadies never got a chance to attempt to open either his main or reserve parachute. The police said when they found him, the reserve chute was open, but both police and Semon said it could have been forced out by the impact. Meanwhile, television station WTIC reported Tuesday that Bonadies was not wearing a device that would have automatically opened his chute at about 1,000 feet. Although many skydivers choose to wear the so-called automatic activation device, Bonadies did not, WTIC reported. All novice skydivers who are jumping with the Connecticut Parachutists group are required to wear the devices. From the USPA Safety & Training Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 6 Instructor Responsibilities Recently during a Category C student skydive, an AFF Instructor was killed after the formation funneled at the student's pull altitude. The two instructors and their student tumbled, and eventually one of the instructors released and deployed his main parachute at a low altitude. The other instructor continued tumbling with the student and deployed the student's main parachute just as the AAD deployed the reserve. The instructor reached the ground before he could deploy his own parachute. The student landed her bi-planed main and reserve without further incident. In situations such as this, altitude awareness is critical. Things happen very fast due to the increase in fall rate while tumbling, which only serves to add to the problems the instructor is already dealing with while trying to get the student deployed. With this tragedy, Instructors are reminded of the protocol that has been established regarding students and pull altitudes. The AFF Syllabus of the Instructional Rating Manual lists the following guidelines regarding deployment problems: 5. General: a. The instructors must assure student main deployment by 3,500 feet to allow both instructors time to get clear and open by 2,000 feet. b. No instructor should ever get above a student. Note: AADs often activate higher than the preset altitude. c. The instructor(s) must ensure reserve deployment by 2,500 feet to get clear and open by 2,000 feet. d. Under no circumstances should an instructor attempt to catch a student or remain with a student below the instructor's minimum deployment (2,000 feet). e. The instructors must take care that one does not deploy the student's main while the other deploys the reserve. (1) Only if the main deployment handle is inaccessible should the reserve-side instructor deploy the student's reserve parachute. (2) Many systems have reserve-side instructor deployment handles to make deploying the main parachute easier for the reserve-side instructor. USPA strongly encourages all skydivers, especially instructors, to use an AAD, which may have changed the outcome of this event. An audible altimeter can also serve to provide an additional altitude warning for instructors while working with students. Solo students, and instructors and students who are using tandem equipment must wear an AAD.
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    Disaster, and the reflex that saved 10

    For 12 months the story has been told in bare bones: skydiver Simon Moline's chute deploys prematurely as he's exiting the plane over the Nagambie drop zone, the chute wraps around the tail of the plane and he is tangled in it, the tail tears off and starts falling, pilot Barry Dawson screams at the skydivers still on board to get out while he tries to control the plane. He barely gets out himself before the plane drops nose-first into the ground. Tomorrow marks a year since Moline died, since people started calling Dawson a hero. Back then they were turning up at Dawson's door at all hours wanting him to tell the story. He told a bit of it, but wasn't happy with all the questions because he hadn't really worked out how he felt. Elated, even surprised, to be alive; hurt because his friend was dead - that's all he knew. Last week, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released its investigation report on the accident. In short, Moline's reserve canopy was deployed prematurely (an extremely rare occurrence) when the pack holding the reserve canopy's pilot chute rubbed against the top of the Cessna Caravan's exit door. Dawson had decided to wait for the report to come out before telling his part of the story in detail. On Friday night, two people who had been on the plane that day were coming over for a few beers - and he figured that was a good time to get a lot of the talking done about that Sunday over Nagambie. "It was," he says, "a beautiful day. Blue sky, no clouds, virtually no wind. Maybe a southerly, five knots. Perfect for skydiving." He was out at the plane by 7.30am, doing his preliminary checks. Matt Drinkwater, one of the members of Simon Moline's formation team, helped Dawson with his checks. The team, practising for a competition, was going up on the day's first run, the first of eight. Dawson had known Moline for nearly 10 years. They began skydiving together about the same time at the Pakenham drop zone. "A good bloke. Very careful and very capable," says Dawson. Moline's formation team comprised Drinkwater, James Boyle and Kath Hoffman. Their regular cameraman wasn't there and a friend, Simon Chaberka, was filling in. In the Cessna Caravan, the skydivers sat in two rows, in safety harnesses bolted to the floor. On the team's eighth run, there were six other jumpers aboard, one a student. On the approach to the target area, at 14,000 feet, the maximum height skydivers can climb to without wearing supplementary oxygen, Dawson called: "One minute", the signal for everybody to put on their goggles. Soon after, Moline's team begin moving to the door, to get in position. The formation team then made a ring, with Boyle on the right of the doorway, facing out. Drinkwater and Moline were facing into the plane, bent over, with their backsides stuck out - and with Moline between Boyle and Drinkwater. Dawson couldn't see the team's exit positions. "All I know is I can feel them climbing out." At this point, another climber, Craig "Crash" Bennett came forward, to thank Dawson for the flight. There was a bang and the plane went into a nose-dive. It was Moline and his canopy hitting the left horizontal stabiliser on the tail assembly. "I didn't see it, but I heard it, and I felt it," says Dawson, "and I just knew that someone was over the tail. I didn't know it was Simon. I was just hoping they could get off, and trying to bring the aircraft up and level and from going down. We were still buffeting around." Dawson shouted for everybody to get out. Meanwhile, cameraman Chaberka was falling, with his eyes turned upward and locked on to Moline and the plane's tail. Chaberka saw the parachute canopy go past him and over the tail. He was a little below Moline as Moline was dragged from Boyle's and Drinkwater's hands by the chute. "I saw Simon's canopy get wrapped around the tail and then the tail twisting, 45 degrees to the right, before it snapped off. Simon was still hanging off the tail." According to the ATSB's investigation report, 11 seconds passed from Moline's impact with the tail section to the tail section tearing away from the rest of the plane, with Moline still tangled in it. In those 11 seconds, in a stable flying position known as "frog" or "box man" - flat to the ground with his arms arranged as if he was being mugged - Chaberka fell about 1000 feet. When the plane overtook him, he followed on, looking for sign of Dawson. "I hadn't seen Barry. All the way down I was calling, 'Get out, get out, get out.' " The plane was falling and spinning. Dawson was in trouble. He recalls: "There were still one or two people in the plane when the tail separated. I think one of them was spat out at that point. As the tail snapped off, the plane whaled on to its back and Crash (Craig Bennett) got pushed up against the windscreen. I was saying, 'Crash! Get the f--- out'. But Crash wasn't sure whether to step on the instruments and damage the plane. That's what appeared to be going through his mind. But he got his foot on the panel and I saw him go over the seats like Superman." Bennett left the plane at about 9000 feet. Meanwhile, Dawson had shut down the fuel pumps, the engine and, with one hand on the control column, calling "Mayday, mayday, mayday", he unbuckled his seatbelt and brought up his left leg to push off the instrument panel, as Bennett had done. But as soon as he let go of the controls, the plane started spinning, and Dawson's dash went nowhere: the G-forces slammed him face first to the floor, between the seats, breaking a rib. "As I hit the floor, I heard the door go 'bang', the sound it makes when it's dropped . . . I couldn't even raise my arm up and I was trying to push forward using my legs but then my boot got stuck, my right foot, stuck in the seat belt." Losing his new boot, Dawson hauled himself along the floor as if he was trying to climb a wall while glued to it, using the harness seatbelts as a hand grip. The plane was tilting about 45 degrees, then it would go vertical, then flatten out, then tilt again. "The G-forces would come on hard sometimes, and it was like when you're in a dream and you want to move and you can't lift your arm and I was just hanging off the harness belts until the Gs eased enough for me to lunge a little more toward the door." Reaching the door, with one hand on a harness for support, Dawson found he couldn't raise the roller door more than a few centimetres with only one hand. He needed two hands for a clean lift. Desperately, he thought of throwing his canopy out of the crack. "That way I'd have been dragged out, but I probably wouldn't have survived it." It was at this point, exhausted and frustrated, unable to see a way out, he thought of his daughter Crystal, only eight weeks old. "And I thought, 'There's no way I'm leaving my baby', and I just went sick." Suddenly, he found he could get his arm out to the crook of the elbow, giving him better purchase on the door. When he had worked it up to his shoulder, he turned over on to his back and squeezed his head out. The plane was still spinning, falling, gaining speed. He was giving birth to himself, pushing himself out. When he got so the door was on his waist, Dawson had a look around to see which way was up and gave a final heave. As he slipped out (at about 1000 feet, says the ATSB report) and rolled over, he saw the plane hit the ground and burst into flames. By the time he pulled the ripcord, he was at about 600 feet, a second and a half from death. After a perfect landing, Dawson saw Chaberka land and they met and hugged, with the plane burning behind them. Dawson was still thinking Moline was all right - hurt but alive. But then he and Chaberka watched him come down, tangled in the tail, in a paddock to the west. Soon after they heard he was dead. "The report says he probably died before he landed," says Dawso
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    Survivors Recall '92 Skydive Crash

    Los Angeles - Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld remembers nothing about the airplane crash that nearly killed him, or the five weeks he lay in a coma afterward. What he does remember is that one of his best friends died on the skydiving plane that crashed 10 years ago last Monday. "It infuriates me," he says of the crash. "I'm still very good friends with his mother, with his sister. I see them and talk to them and it just kills me, that I had anything to do with it." In one of the worst accidents in skydiving history, the twin-engine de Havilland plunged to the ground during takeoff at Perris Valley Airport, killing the pilot and 15 skydivers. Brodsky-Chenfeld, 40, was among six survivors. He was coaching American and Dutch skydivers and had recruited some to come out to Southern California for training. Among the dead was his friend James Layne, whom he had taught to skydive in Ohio. Federal officials determined that contaminated fuel caused the right engine of the DHC-6-200 Twin Otter to lose power after takeoff. The pilot then made a mistake. The overloaded plane's right wing dipped and struck the ground. Witnesses said the craft bounced upright and then nose-dived, shearing off its nose and wings. Troy Widgery, 35, of Denver, recalls the aircraft was 300 feet in the air when it rolled over and he saw the ground out of the door. The crash knocked him out for several seconds. When he awoke, he found himself on top of bodies, fearful that the aircraft would catch fire. "I thought, well we lived through that and now it's gonna burn. Gotta get out of here. Everyone was either dead, dying or couldn't move." Widgery spent several days in the hospital with a broken hip, collarbone and other injuries. "I was jumping two months later. Once I could walk again, I was skydiving," he said. The skydiving school about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles survived and has flourished, now handling about 10,000 student jumps a year. Pictures of the dead hang on the school walls, and there is a memorial park near the drop zone. On Monday, friends will gather there for skydiving and a barbecue. "It's an opportunity to be among people who truly understand our pain," said Melanie Conatser, co-owner of Perris Valley Skydiving. Brodsky-Chenfeld, of Chandler, Ariz., suffered a head injury, a broken neck, a collapsed lung and other internal injuries in the crash. He is "covered with scars" and still takes medication for back pain and other problems caused by his injuries. Yet he, too, was back to skydiving only months after the crash, following two major surgeries and with a brace around his neck. He has made 9,000 jumps since the crash, and started a championship skydiving team, Arizona Airspeed. "It's hard to ever consider a life that doesn't include that," he said. "It's really important that every day of your life you're doing something that really challenges you, something that you love to do." ~ Associated Press
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    Golden Knights pilot memorialized

    FORT BRAGG -- An Army pilot so skilled he could fly eight types of aircraft was remembered today by fellow members of the Golden Knights parachute exhibition team. Chief Warrant Officer Lowell Timmons, 45, died last week when the UV-20 single-engine turboprop he was flying near Tucson, Ariz., collided with a civilian skydiving plane. No one else was killed. About 300 people attended the service today at the main chapel at Fort Bragg, home of the Golden Knights and the Army's 18th Airborne Corps. At the front of the gathering, Timmons' dog tags and flight helmet hung on the butt of a M-16 rifle mounted vertically. On the floor beside it the rifle was a pair of empty jump boots. The display was backed by crossed United States and Golden Knights flags. The demonstration team's commanding officer, Lt. Col. David Liwang, said while some Americans find it difficult to learn to drive a stick-shift automobile, Timmons was proficient flying everything from helicopters to cargo planes. His 6,000 hours of flight experience was equivalent to flying nonstop for nearly nine months, Liwang said. "It's been my honor and my pleasure to serve with him," Maj. Trey Kelly, commander of the parachute team's pilots and crew members, said before stepping back from the podium and saluting. Chief Warrant Officer Ken Breeden, a fellow pilot, knew Timmons when they served together in Korea before joining the Golden Knights. Breeden said Timmons had a knack for instantly earning the respect of fellow fliers and parachute troops. Timmons was due for a promotion within a few months to become the aviator in charge of polishing the training of the team's instructor pilots, said Sgt. 1st Class Ken Kassens, a Golden Knights spokesman. The Army's Aviation Safety Center and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of last week's fatal crash. Four Golden Knights had made a practice jump shortly before the collision with a Cessna 182 carrying four civilian skydivers. The four civilians aboard the Cessna jumped afterward. Timmons, a 16-year veteran born in Fort Wayne, Ind., had served in Somalia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia, Germany and Korea. He is survived by his wife, Teresa, three daughters and three brothers. His funeral will be held Saturday at Richmond Hill, Ga., near Savannah.
  25. Moments after a jury cleared him of any wrongdoing in the death of a skydiver, Michael Hawkes stood on the front steps of the Foley Federal Building and pointed skyward at the Air Force Thunderbirds as they performed maneuvers. "Hey! They're celebrating our win," Hawkes yelled over to fellow defendant Joe Herbst. "That's pretty good." On Friday a Clark County civil jury ruled that Hawkes, the owner of Skydive Las Vegas, was not responsible for the May 1998 death of Vic Pappadato, an Emmy-award winning videographer and skydiver. They also found that Herbst, a former teacher who jumped that day with Pappadato, did not contribute to Pappadato's death. In fact, they awarded Herbst $1, saying Pappadato caused the midair collision that led to his death and seriously injured Herbst. The four-week trial was held in the Foley Federal Building to provide extra space. The parents and brother of Vic Pappadato had claimed that Hawkes had a history of violating safety rules and on the afternoon of May 10, 1998, allowed a group to dive even though some of them had been partying the previous evening. The family's attorney said those mistakes led to Pappadato's death. Hawkes and Herbst's attorneys told jurors that Pappadato deviated from a pre-arranged plan, and his mistakes led to his death. They also pointed out that Pappadato had signed a waiver releasing Skydive Las Vegas from any liability. "It's been a long four weeks since the trial began and a long four years since the accident," Hawkes said. "I'm just very happy the waiver stood out and was upheld. Everyone who jumps out of airplanes knows it is potentially dangerous. "There's been a lot of pain and suffering on both sides. I'm very sorry for the Pappadatos' loss, but this lawsuit should never have happened." In a written statement, Vince Pappadato, Vic's brother wrote: "We accept the jury's verdict, although we do not necessarily agree with the outcome. Sometimes the truth cannot always be proven. "This is just another bump in the road for us, and Vic Pappadato will never be forgotten for the champion he was in the sport that he loved so much, for the son and brother that he is, and for the man he became that everyone loved and misses dearly." Vince Pappadato said his family also wished for peace for the Herbst family. Herbst, who suffered internal injuries and broken bones in the accident, said he regretted having to file his counter-claim against Pappadato's estate. He said he went ahead with the lawsuit to clear his name. "I have no animosity toward the Pappadato family, that's why I only asked for a dollar," Herbst said. Herbst, who has made 1,000 dives since the accident, said the accident happened as the result of a few bad decisions made over a nine-second period. "Who hasn't made bad decisions?" Herbst said. "I had forgiven Vic before I hit the ground." ~ LAS VEGAS SUN