A skydiving tragedy claimed the lives of three skydivers at Mission Beach in Far North Queensland, Australia on October 13.
The deceased were two men and one woman in their 30s and 40s.
Paramedics were called to Alexander Drive at Mission Beach shortly after 3:00 on the afternoon of the 13th, but the three skydivers were declared dead at the scene.
One of the deceased skydivers was highly experienced. He had completed thousands of successful jumps during his career. Another skydiver had significant experience as well.
While it is still unclear what exactly happened to cause this horrific accident, there is some speculation that one of the three—a solo skydiver—may have collided with the other two, who were engaged in a tandem jump.
An eyewitness describes the ghastly scene.
“I watched it unfold,” the gentleman told Cairns Post, a media source close to where the accident happened.
“You could see one chute was tangled and it wasn’t opening,” he said. “I was just watching him in free fall until he went behind the trees, and that was the last I saw.”
The gentleman added that it looked to him as though the skydiver didn’t activate his backup parachute after his first parachute failed.
“I don’t understand how three people died,” he said. “Unless someone was trying to catch them. I could understand two, maybe, but not three. Unless maybe it was two chutes tangled together that I saw.”
“I didn’t see anyone near them,” he continued, “but they were at a fairly high altitude, so maybe it happened further up.”
The gentleman was clearly shaken from his observations, and he noted the feeling in the nearby town had turned to one of shock and sorrow as well.
“It wasn’t good to watch. I had my heart in my mouth,” he concluded.
A resident found one of the deceased skydivers in his backyard. The other two were found not far from there, entangled in trees.
A spokeswoman from the local police department confirmed the suspicion that a solo skydiver may have collided with the tandem skydivers. The area was declared a crime scene later that same afternoon.
The skydivers jumped from a SKYDIVE Australia drop zone. They issued a statement following this skydiving tragedy.
“Three people have died after sustaining injuries from a skydiving accident in Far North Queensland,” it read. “The incident happened at Mission Beach, south of Cairns, this afternoon.”
“One of the deceased, a highly experienced instructor who had completed thousands of jumps was completing a solo jump,” the statement continued. “The other two were jumping as a tandem pair; a highly experienced instructor and a customer. Skydiving operations have been suspended at Mission Beach while the appropriate authorities conduct an extensive investigation. The Company extends its deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the individuals and families involved and the broader skydiving community.”
A police spokesperson says a crime scene was set up in the hours following the accident. A Forensic Crash Unit and detectives as well as scientific officers had been called to the crash scene. The area cordoned off is quite a distance from the drop zone where the skydivers jumped.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council Division 4 Councilor Wayne Kimberley called the crash a “terrible tragedy.”
The names of the deceased haven’t yet been released, pending the notification of next of kin. These families—and the skydiving community—are surely in shock, and will mourn this tragedy for many years.